A Literary Struggle with Ambivalence: Representations of Misogyny and Jewish Self-Hatred in the Writing of Albert Cohen
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- Purdue University Press
- Volume 18, Number 3, Spring 2000
- pp. 27-48
- Additional Information
Critics have lauded Albert Cohen for his vehement affirmation of Jewish identity, in contrast to the reserve historically exercised by French Jewish intellectuals with respect to their own Jewishness. Cohen has been equally praised for the exaltation of femininity and maternal love in his writing. Despite Cohen's ostensibly philosemitic and pro-feminine stance, his works exhibit both antisemitic and misogynistic discourses inscribed with a positive authorial evaluation. This essay examines the psychological and cultural conflicts underlying the representation of Jewish and female subjects in Cohen's major novels and autobiographical texts. Situating his writing within the dual framework of Melanie Klein's theories of mourning and artistic reparation and Sander Gilman's theorization of Jewish self-hatred, I argue that Cohen's novels succumb to the destructive forces of the maternal/cultural schism, while his autobiographical texts transcend the writer's ambivalence towards women and Jewish identity through textual acts of reparation.