Around the beginning of the twentieth century, Jewish writers and artists across Europe began depicting fellow Jews as savages or “primitive” tribesmen. Primitivism—the European appreciation of and fascination with so-called “primitive,” non-Western peoples who were also subjugated and denigrated—was a powerful artistic critique of the modern world and was adopted by Jewish writers and artists to explore the urgent questions surrounding their own identity and status in Europe as insiders and outsiders. Jewish primitivism found expression in a variety of forms in Yiddish, Hebrew, and German literature, photography, and graphic art, including in the work of figures such as Franz Kafka, Y.L. Peretz, S. An-sky, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Else Lasker-Schüler, and Moï Ver.
In Jewish Primitivism, Samuel J. Spinner argues that these and other Jewish modernists developed a distinct primitivist aesthetic that, by locating the savage present within Europe, challenged the idea of the threatening savage other from outside Europe on which much primitivism relied: in Jewish primitivism, the savage is already there. This book offers a new assessment of modern Jewish art and literature and shows how Jewish primitivism troubles the boundary between observer and observed, cultured and “primitive,” colonizer and colonized.
The Divine in Modern Hebrew Literature by Professor Neta Stahl
Demonstrating the pervasive presence of God in modern Hebrew literature, this book explores the qualities that twentieth-century Hebrew writers attributed to the divine, and examines their functions against the simplistic dichotomy between religious and secular literature.
The volume follows both chronological and thematic paths, offering a panoramic and multilayered analysis of the various strategies in which modern Hebrew writers, from the turn of the nineteenth century through the twenty-first century pursued in their attempt to represent the divine in the face of metaphysical, theological, and representational challenges. Modern Hebrew literature emerged during the nineteenth century as part of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) movement, which attempted to break from the traditional modes of Jewish intellectual and social life. The Hebrew literature that arose in this period embraced the rebellious nature of the Haskalah and is commonly characterized as secular in nature, defying Orthodoxy and rejecting God. Nevertheless, this volume shows that modern Hebrew literature relied on traditional narratological and poetic norms in its attempt to represent God. Despite its self-declared secularity, it engaged deeply with traditional problems such as the nature of God, divine presence, and theodicy.
Examining these radical changes, this volume is a key text for scholars and students of modern Hebrew literature, Jewish studies and the intersection of religion and literature.
Other and Brother: Jesus in the 20th-Century Jewish Literary Landscape
In a groundbreaking book, Neta Stahl examines the attitudes adopted by modern Jewish writers toward the figure of Jesus. Stahl argues that 20th-century Jewish writers reconsidered Jesus’ traditional status as the Christian Other and looked to him instead as a fellow Jew, a “brother,” and even as a model for the “New Jew.”
Other and Brother analyzes the work of a wide array of modern Jewish writers, beginning in the early 20th century and ending with contemporary Israeli literature. Stahl takes the reader through dramatic changes in Jewish life from the Haskalah (or Jewish Enlightenment) and Emancipation, to Zionism, the Holocaust, and the formation of the state of Israel. She shows, for example, how the emergence of quasi-messianic Zionist ideas about returning to the land of Israel, where the actual Jesus was born, helped make the figure of Jesus a source of attraction and identification for Hebrew and Yiddish writers in the first half of the 20th century, and how the fateful events of that century brought about a major transformation in the Jewish attitude toward Jesus.
Stahl’s nuanced and insightful historiography of modern Hebrew and Jewish literature will be a valuable resource for anyone interested in the role of Jesus in Jewish culture.
For almost two thousand years, various images of Jesus accompanied Jewish thought and imagination: a flesh-and-blood Jew, a demon, a spoiled student, an idol, a brother, a (failed) Messiah, a nationalist rebel, a Greek god in Jewish garb, and more.
This volume charts for the first time the different ways that Jesus has been represented and understood in Jewish culture and thought. Chapters from many of the leading scholars in the field cover the topic from a variety of disciplinary perspectives—Talmud, Midrash, Rabbinics, Kabbalah, Jewish Magic, Messianism, Hagiography, Modern Jewish Literature, Thought, Philosophy, and Art—to address the ways in which representations of Jesus contribute to and change Jewish self-understanding throughout the last two millennia. Beginning with the question of how we know that Jesus was a Jew, the book then moves through meticulous analyses of Jewish and Christian scripture and literature to provide a rounded and comprehensive analysis of Jesus in Jewish Culture.
This multidisciplinary study will be of great interest not only to students of Jewish history and philosophy, but also to scholars of religious studies, Christianity, intellectual history, literature and cultural studies.