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Introduction: The Language of Anti-Semitism This is a book about language, about how to recognize and interpret the rhetoric of anti-Semitism in its literary articulations. It focuses on latent anti-Semitism in mainstream German and Austrian literature written during the early phases of the Jewish emancipation debate, the years 1749 to 1850. Most studies of pre-Holocaust literature analyze obvious, virulent expressions of anti-Semitism. I propose a more nuanced approach, and consider how subtle forms of literary anti-Semitism mirror, create, and subconsciously instill prejudice in an educated population. The following chapters present major new readings of seminal works by leading authors, including Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Friedrich von Schiller, Achim von Arnim, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Adalbert Stifter, and Franz Grillparzer. Through careful textual analysis I reshape our understanding of this canonical literature, and demonstrate that disciplinary practices within the fields of Germanistik and German Studies have led to systematic blind spots in the scholarship on anti-Semitism to date. In unsettling this established reception history, The Word Unheard remaps the boundaries of German Jewish Studies and opens up new lines of interdisciplinary inquiry. By concentrating on latent expressions of anti-Semitism in key canonical texts from the German literary tradition, The Word Unheard aims to reconceptualize our understanding of literary anti-Semitism in general . The close readings developed throughout this book comprise a methodology applicable across the humanities: its goals are to recognize expressions of anti-Semitism not readily apparent on a first reading, and to analyze how a text constructs the figure of the Jew discursively. (In referring to “the Jew” as a “discursive construct,” I invoke the terminology of discourse analysis, which considers language as a social practice that inscribes ideologies and power structures.) In contrast to most other studies of Jews in German literature that are primarily sociohistorical or thematic in approach,1 the main focus here is on rhetorical strategies, on the language of anti-Semitism. Drawing on Sander Gilman’s foundational work; on recent studies of Jews, anti-Semitism, and anti-Semitic stereotypes in European literature; on discourse analysis; and on semiotic theory, I identify and interpret the discursive networks of anti-Semitism xi that inform the signifying systems of mainstream literary texts. For the most part, the anti-Semitic dimensions of these texts—canonical works of Bildungskultur—have not been recognized, much less analyzed, in the scholarship to date. Accordingly, two interrelated questions motivate the following readings: why have these anti-Semitic discourses escaped notice in German Studies as a discipline, and how do these hidden discourses of anti-Semitism construct meaning in literary texts? In answer to the first question, I maintain that fundamental historical , epistemological, and disciplinary paradigm shifts have made these readings both possible and necessary. From historical and epistemological vantages, our post-Holocaust eyes cannot and do not read these texts as they were read in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is not to argue for a deterministic or teleological genealogy, but for a structural shift in cultural awareness. Something akin to a Marxian false consciousness rendered this latent anti-Semitism natural—hence only marginally perceptible—to a pre-Holocaust readership inured to antiJewish thought. At the same time, disciplinary practices within the fields of Germanistik and German Studies have perpetuated this false consciousness, wittingly or unwittingly, up until the present. Historically, there has been a demonstrable resistance to reading the Jew in the German literary canon, and, oddly enough, to reading these canonical texts in their entirety. Instead, scholars have cherry-picked selectively: certain works and certain passages are cited over and over again, to the exclusion of others. As a result of this repetition compulsion, traditional readings of canonical texts have calcified over time. We think we know these texts, but we don’t. To take but one striking example of this disciplinary blindness : the surface anti-Semitism of the Grimm Brothers’ famous fairy tale “The Jew in Thorns” has long been recognized, yet the iconography announced in the text’s title remains curiously unread. Scholars have missed the blatant allusion to the Crucifixion, and the full import of the text’s programmatic anti-Semitism has not been analyzed correctly.2 In short, the unreflected perpetuation of traditional reading practices has led to critical stasis, a problem compounded by contemporary cultural studies, which has made important critical advances, yet for the most part has moved away from canonical literature and largely abandoned sustained textual analysis. My methodology, informed by reading strategies derived...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780810165717
Related ISBN
9780810127944
MARC Record
OCLC
867786001
Pages
264
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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