The Textures of the Soul: Isolation Throughout History and Religion

Niklaus Largier, German, Comparative Literature, UC Berkeley, and Nir Feinberg, PhD candidate, Group in Buddhist Studies, UC Berkeley

As part of the Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic, Niklaus Largier (UC Berkeley Departments of German and Comparative Literature) and Nir Feinberg (UC Berkeley Group in Buddhist Studies) discuss the effects of and possibilities created by isolation in the context of religion and the present moment. How have religious figures historically thought about isolation? Why has seclusion from the world thought to have created deeper insights into the self? Without dismissing the difficulties brought by the necessity of quarantine and self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, our guests approach the changed nature of our social world from a new angle.


Niklaus Largier is Professor in the German and Comparative Literature Departments. Largier’s current research and teaching focuses on the history of the imagination and the emotions; and on the history of the senses and of the production of sense experience from the Middle Ages to the Modern era. Niklaus Largier is a scholar of mystical traditions in German literature and thought, in particular Meister Eckhart and his influence. He is working on two projects: a book on imagination, practices of figuration, and notions of possibility, tentatively entitled “Figures of Possibility;” and a book on the history of practices and the poetics of prayer (with David Marno).

Nir Feinberg received a B.A. in Philosophy and East Asian Studies from Tel Aviv University, and an M.A. in South Asian Studies from Tel Aviv University. He is primarily interested in Indian Buddhist philosophy and Sanskrit literature, particularly in the understanding of emotions, as presented in Buddhist scholastic, poetic, and disciplinary texts.

As part of the Berkeley Democracy and Public Theology Program, BCSR’s Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic brings together scholars and the public to address the current pandemic and its commensurate crises, exploring the intersection between religion and timely topics such as the environment, public health, elections and democracy, religious freedom, and nationalism in order to foster dialogue and reflection.

The Berkeley Public Forum on Religion and Pandemic is generously sponsored by the Henry Luce Foundation