Maria Lissek

Postdoctoral Fellow SNSF, Uni Bern (2023)

Maria Lissek studied Christian theology in Germany (Bamberg, Marburg, Tübingen) and Israel (Jerusalem). In 2013/14 she was an academic assistant in Jerusalem and in 2016/17 a research fellow at Oxford University. From 2014 until 2020 Maria was PhD student, academic assistant, and lecturer at the Institute for Historical Theology in Bern. In 2020 she earned her PhD at the University of Bern supervised by Katharina Heyden (Bern), Anna Sapir Abulafia (Oxford) and Martin Sallmann (Bern). Her dissertation was dedicated to the question of Christian self-understanding within the polemical dialogues of Gilbert Crispin (~1055–1117) and Peter Alfonsi (11th/12th century). Both literary dialogues reflect their Christian authors’ encounters – whether real or fictitious – with non-Christians, such as Jews, so-called ‘philosophers’, or Saracens. By doing so their works shaped their own Christian self-understanding in light of others and functioned as a pedagogical tool for their readers. From 2020 until 2023 she continued her work as lecturer and began her first postdoctoral project on minorities in Christian Late Antiquity.

Maria’s research focuses on the history of interreligious encounters. Thereby, she explores the function and relevance of the relationship between minorities and majorities. This approach asks how such encounters impacted these religions and their self-understanding. Maria’s postdoctoral project within the CORE-research group examines the significance of the destruction of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of St. George in Ramla, which occurred under Muslim rule in 1009. She focuses on how Christians in the West received, experienced, and shaped the understanding of the destruction of Christian sites in the East and what impact this event had on the Christian treatment of Jews and Muslims in 11th-century France. One Hebrew and two Christian chronicles describe this event. One of them is the Historiae by Rudolf Glaber (*985, Burgundy; +~1047, Saint-Germain d’Auxerre). Maria will use this source to shed light on religious interaction and the concept of co-produced religions in the entangled Early Medieval world.

In addition, Maria is working on a further postdoctoral project at the University of Zurich on the controversial dialogue Milchamot Ha-Shem, by the rabbinical theologian Jakob Ben Reuben (12th century). This source is an instance of the Jewish reception of Christian polemical dialogues; I ask how and to what extent Ben Reuben’s dialogue illuminates the emergence of a Jewish self-understanding as a religious minority, through adopting a Christian genre and facing the rise of Christian Scholasticism.

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