Sara Lipton, PhD


Dr. Lipton is Professor of History at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Her research focuses on religious identity and experience, Jewish-Christian relations, and art and culture in the high and later Middle Ages (11th–15th centuries). Dr. Lipton publications include Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography (Winner, Jordan Schnitzer Book Award, Association for Jewish Studies), Images of Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible moralisée (Winner, John Nicholas Brown Prize, The Medieval Academy of America Finalist, Koret/National Foundation for Jewish Culture History Book Award), and many others. Dr. Lipton is the recipient of several awards, grants, and fellowships, including most recently the fellowship of the Medieval Academy of America.

She received her MA and PhD in Medieval Studies from Yale University.
Incidental Jews: Jews as Characters, Foils, and Metaphors in Medieval Sermons

In her Scholar Lab project, Dr. Lipton will draw on two of her most recent major scholarly projects – a study of the representation of Jews in medieval Christian art, and an examination of how medieval preachers talked to their flocks about art, vision, and the material world – to explore references to Jews in medieval sermons.  Rather than highlighting the theological ideas of elite churchmen, Dr. Lipton hopes to recreate the semi-conscious or even unconscious web of associations that contoured both elite and popular attitudes toward Jews in the Middle Ages. To do so, she will utilize both sermons that explicitly address Jewish issues and sermons that mention Jews in passing, even merely incidentally.  Dr. Lipton is especially interested in examining how and in what contexts Jews were mentioned. The ultimate goal of her project is to understand and visually illustrate why anti-Semitism came to be a central feature of medieval and early modern Christianity.

Dr. Lipton’s working assumption is that anti-Semitism acted as a stand-in for or deflection of Christian self-criticism. Certain words and concepts associated with Jews and Judaism in the New Testament came to act as "triggers." When these particular concepts became relevant or pressing -- as they did in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, due to changes in European culture and society -- they provoked anti-Jewish rhetoric, which in turn generated negative attitudes, policies, and violence.

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