Northwestern Events Calendar


Beyond Lament and Blasphemy: Jews and Christians Listening to Job in Midwest America

When: Thursday, May 5, 2022
5:30 PM - 7:30 PM Central

Where: Regenstein Hall of Music, Regenstein Master Class Room, 60 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Concert Management Office   (847) 467-4000

Group: Bienen School of Music Concerts and Events

Category: Fine Arts


Part of the Music Studies Global Distinguished Speakers Series

Professor Ruth HaCohen, Hebrew University of Jerusalem 

In this talk, Professor Ruth HaCohen discusses the soundtracks of two "Joban" movies whose plots take place in the 1950s and '60s in the American Midwest. The first film, the Coen brothers' A Serious Man (2009), is "Jewish" in the sense that its protagonists are active members of a practicing Jewish community in a Minnesota suburb. The second, Terrence Malick's Tree of Life (2011), is "Christian," as it centers on a family who are members of a Catholic community in Texas. Both movies are autobiographical, as their authors attest. The talk takes as its point of departure the long legacy of the Book of Job's reception in each of the respective religious communities as well as their traditional contrasting approaches to questions of noise and harmony. It seeks to show the critical role played by the sonic dimension of the movies for fathoming their deeper meaning vis à-vis their Joban orientation.

This lecture hinges on possible interpretations of Job 38, 7: "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy," which Malick took as a motto for his movie: Did the stars cum sons of God sing and shout in harmony, or did they produce noise? In theological terms, does the Book of Job, its "lieto fine" notwithstanding, point towards salvation or disillusionment? And to what sort of salvation or disillusionment does it point, when viewed in terms of the movies' retrospective gaze at the America of their childhood time? Taken together, the films, I argue, artistically express significant trends in Jewish and Christian theologies, and, wittingly or unwittingly, write new chapters in each. 

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