Dr David Tollerton
Lecturer in Jewish Studies and Contemporary Biblical Cultures
I am particularly interested in (i) religious responses to the Holocaust, (ii) concepts of blasphemy and sacredness, and (iii) contemporary receptions of the Bible. Most of my work engages with interconnections between these areas within the modern world.
My 2012 monograph, The Book of Job in Post-Holocaust Thought, considered the use of Job’s archetypal story amidst Jewish reflections on persecution during the Nazi period, highlighting the extent to which interpretive traditions, contemporary politics, and debates about history shape the meaning given to the biblical text. In recent work I have continued to explore religious responses to the Holocaust, examining ongoing debates about representation and sacralisation.
In the last couple of years I have also particularly looked at receptions of the Bible in film, especially when associated with perceptions of blasphemy and the transgression of sacred boundaries. Case studies have involved Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Darren Aronofsky's Noah. More broadly, I am interested in wider ideas of blasphemy and offence, particularly when interacting with evolving ideas of secularity and identity.
My research interests fall into the three interconnected areas:
1. Religious responses to the Holocaust
The majority of my work within Holocaust studies to date has focused on appeals to the Bible among those responding to the mass-murder of Europe’s Jews. Although often focusing on specific biblical texts, such as the Book of Job, this has also included consideration of the 'biblical' as a broader transferable category.
I am continuing to write on critical responses to Jewish 'Holocaust Theology' but also the use of sacred categories in Holocaust remembrance more broadly. This particularly includes interactions between Holocaust memory and wider socio-religious changes within contemporary society. I was recently awarded a grant by the St Luke's Foundation to consider Holocaust representation in the RE classroom, and the place of Holocaust memory in British society is a topic I will be examining further in forthcoming work.
2. Concepts of blasphemy and sacredness
Earlier in my career I was an AHRC research assistant on a project examining ideas of religion and freedom of expression in contemporary Britain, and from this I have ongoing interest in evolving perceptions of blasphemy. This has included looking at the reception of art and films deemed offensive within particular communities, and wider questions about the interface between religious tradition and secularity amidst debates about offence and sacredness.
3. Contemporary receptions of the Bible
I have often found receptions of the Bible to be a useful entry point into the research areas described above. As well as several publications on post-Holocaust readings of the Bible I have also looked at biblical reception in connection to instances of religious offence. This has particularly meant looking at art and film, and recently I edited a volume for Bloomsbury press on Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings.
I am a member of:
- The British Association for Holocaust Studies
- The British Association for Jewish Studies
- The Society of Biblical Literature
- The European Association of Biblical Studies
- The International Society for Heresy Studies.
I am current co-supervising two research students and particularly interested in discussing proposals on:
i. Religious responses to the Holocaust
ii. Ideas of blasphemy and religious offence
iii. The Bible’s use in relation to modern politics, conflict and culture
Please have a look at the other profile tabs to see more detail concerning my current work. I am happy to discuss research proposals on any related area so do feel free to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
External impact and engagement
I have written on Holocaust memory, blasphemy, and contemporary politics for The Guardian, The Times Higher Education, and The Conversation, as well as speaking on Radio Devon and at a range of public and school events in Exeter and Oxford.
Contribution to discipline
I am a member of the editorial board for Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History, co-chair of the ISBL 'Bible and its Influence: History and Impact' panel, and steering committee member for the AAR 'Religion, Holocaust, and Genocide' Unit.
I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and was recently nominated by my students for several Guild teaching awards.