The Birth of Poetry from the Music of Disaster: Divine Violence in the Poetry of Meir Wieseltier

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This article explores the poetic and political-theological nexus of power, violence and sovereignty in Meir Wieseltier's work. No poet seems to have inserted himself quite so powerfully into the narrow crack between the authority of the political sovereign and that of the divine sovereign, warning against the dangerous link between the theological and the political in Israel's messianic discourse. Wieseltier seems to draw inspiration from the theological-political sovereignty which relies on “an act of exception”, then to perform it poetically (“an exceptional verb”) to found his sovereignty and authority. Wieseltier's poetry arises from the divine music of catastrophe, based on a great intimacy with the ancient sources. It includes musical syntactic structures, like the mishnaic catalogue syntax, or the apocalyptic language of liturgical poetry in the prayers for the High Holy days with their outrageous “music of curses”.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-124
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2019


  • Meir Wieseltier
  • divine music of catastrophe
  • messianic discourse
  • theological-political sovereignty
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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