Danger, Deliverance and Art

Edited by Emily Bilski

Paperback : 9780873340496, 128 pages, November 1988


This book is, quite frankly, a catalogue—a catalogue to document an exhibit at The Jewish Museum. It is also a presentation of recent scholarship on the golem including an in-depth examination of the golem in Jewish mysticism. Isaac Bashevis Singer has written the Introduction and there are essays by Moshe Idel, Elfi Ledig, and Emily Bilski. An extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources on all aspects of its golem is also included.

Isaac Bashevis Singer's introduction explores the appeal of the golem legend over the centuries and its particular relevance in our own day. Singer also discusses his personal interest in the golem as subject for his writing.

Moshe Idel's essay surveys the idea of the golem and its development within the Jewish mystical tradition, in Talmudic and Midrashic sources, in Ashkenazi and Sephardi mystical circles in the medieval period, and its emergence as a popular legend of the golem myth in Jewish culture. Dr. Idel has discovered many previously unpublished manuscripts. His essay synthesizes this important new research and presents it in an interpretive manner.

Elfi Ledig's essay examines Paul Wegener's golem films and writings on the subject, and their relationship to golem literature. She looks at the technical aspects of the golem intertitles and tinting techniques and discusses its merit as cinematic art. Ms. Ledig also traces the development of the theme through the three films Wegener made about the golem, using scripts treatments for the two films that no longer exist. Lastly, she discusses the interrelationship of the film and the legend's appearance in contemporary novels, stories, plays, and fantastic literature.

Emily Bilski's essay focuses on the golem as a subject for the visual arts and the different ideas and perspectives inherent in the subject that have attracted artists. Five major themes emerge from a study of the artistic material: mysticism, creativity and the power of creation, redemption and deliverance, the golem as doppelgaenger or double, and fantasy and popular culture or the more whimsical aspects of the golem. These themes developed over time and often reflect historical, political and broader cultural developments.