Fantastic Beasts: Cosmic Zoo after K’zoo

Cosmic Ecologies: Animalities in Premodern Jewish Culture, an international symposium co-sponsored by Case Western Reserve University, the Newberry Library, and the Northwestern University, took place in Chicago last week. Monday sessions–“Beastly Hybrids,” “Animal Capacities,” and Mystic Fauna”–broached a broad variety of subjects, from animals in the Kabbalah to zoomorphic allegories to micrographic beasts to animal imagery in Hebrew and Yiddish manuscripts–with respondents providing contextual comparanda from medieval Christian and Islamic art. On Tuesday, audiences were treated to an extended session on bodies and animalities as well as to a manuscript / rare book study at the Newberry; the symposium concluded with a roundtable.  The joint program was robustly represented by Reed O’Mara, who gave a fabulous talk on the Ambrosian Tanakh; Prof. Elina Gertsman, who co-organized the symposium and gave closing remarks; and Cecily Hughes, Rebekkah Hart, Zoe Appleby, Claudia Haines, Sarah Frisbie, and Ariella Har-Even who were in the audience. Prof. Gertsman was delighted by a surprise visit from Roshi Ahmadian, her very first MA student at CWRU, who now lives and works in Chicago!