What is Jewish literature? Nearly two centuries have passed since Leopold Zunz first attempted to answer this constitutive question, launching the Wissenschaft des Judentums with an ambitious plan to recuperate the literature of the Jewish people. Less than a century after Zunz published the first manifesto for Jewish literary history, the field was in many ways already clearly mapped out, yet the question has persisted. Describing the transformation of the constitutive question from early Wissenschaft times to the present through an analysis of representative responses to it, this essay suggests that the persistence of the question of Jewish literature and the mixed multitude of answers that have proliferated belie the consensus that informed the discipline at its inception and has sustained it over two centuries of extraordinary political and social upheaval and change, that Jewish literature is simply literature written by Jews--that is, all Jews, regardless of any connection they may or may not have to what we commonly refer to as Jewish culture. The essay contends further that this racial definition is conceptually inescapable and that, rather than ignore it or condemn it, critics ought to deal honestly with its implications.


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pp. 287-321
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