Glory and Agony: Isaac's Sacrifice and National Narrative

Synopsis

Glory and Agony is the first history of the shifting attitudes toward national sacrifice in Hebrew culture over the last century. Its point of departure is Zionism's obsessive preoccupation with its haunting "primal scene" of sacrifice, the near-sacrifice of Isaac, as evidenced in wide-ranging sources from the domains of literature, art, psychology, philosophy, and politics. By placing these sources in conversation with twentieth-century thinking on human sacrifice, violence, and martyrdom, this study draws a complex picture that provides multiple, sometimes contradictory insights into the genesis and gender of national sacrifice.

Extending back over two millennia, this study unearths retellings of biblical and classical narratives of sacrifice, both enacted and aborted, voluntary and violent, male and female- Isaac, Ishmael, Jephthah's daughter, Iphigenia, Jesus. Glory and Agony traces the birth of national sacrifice out of the ruins of religious martyrdom, exposing the sacred underside of Western secularism in Israel as elsewhere.