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Book Reviews 163 both permitted and limited the radicalism, and if so, what is its significance? Thomas Aquinas was far from a friend to Jews; his writings mark the presence of the new scholastic enemy to the Jews, but also contain thresholds beyond which the thinking can hardly be considered "Catholic." As far as one can establish from the study, figures such as Petrus Venerabilis, Duns Scotus, or Johann Eck (thank goodness) do not play a role in the Catholic discourse of the nineteenth century. Abraham a Santa Clara, however, found favor. Why one and not the other? Was there no model other than the expressive baroque Jewish enemy for the shepherd to follow on the path through the tribulations of modernity? A further examination oftraditional adaptations could shed light on such questions as which aspects ofthe Catholic anti-Judaism were old, which were "modem," and, importantly, which were both simultaneously-and which ones were, in the final analysis, compatible with non-Catholic models ofargumentation. This might illuminate the elements enabling the 20th-century radicalization of hostility toward Jews, which led to genocide. Johannes Heil Zentrum fur Antisemitismusforschung Technische Universitat Berlin Richard Wagner, Fritz Lang, and the Nibelungen, by David J. Levin. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998. 207 pp. $29.95. David Levin's study offers an important contribution to two ongoing and equally heated debates: the controversy among music historians and cultural historians on Wagner and antisemitism-I mention only the excellent study by Marc Weiner, RichardWagner and the Anti-Semitic Imagination-and the extensive writings on representations of Jewishness, and the Jewish body in particular; here Sander Gilman's work on stereotypes (e.g., in Jewish Self-Hatred) has been very influential. Levin focuses on the Nibelungen material in its reworkings for the operatic stage and the silent screen and enlists the iconography of antisemitism in a detailed analysis of more basic problems ofrepresentation. By describing what he calls the ideological trajectory ofthe material in aesthetic terms, he not only reformulates the underlying questions ofidentity, power, and community within and through the domain of the aesthetic, but through his allegorical approach he also forges an alliance between aesthetic and ethical questions that allows him to reconstruct the transferences from aesthetics to politics that, in his view, fuel the antisemitic imagination. Following an introductory discussion ofthe proliferation and problematization of narration in the original Nibelungenlied, the study sets out to trace the continuous dissemination ofthis famous epic into the highly conflicted terms ofGerman modernity: Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen and Fritz Lang's two-part 164 SHOFAR Spring 2000 Vol. 18, No.3 silent film classic Die Nibelungen. Two-thirds of the book deals with Wagner and his struggle with dramaturgical questions (musical concerns remain largely absent); onethird is devoted to the film adaptation and the necessary translation of the central problem of narration into the terms of vision and visuality. Motivated perhaps by the desire for greater relevance, the postscript extends some ofthese ideas into contemporary film culture (e.g., Michael Verhoeven's The Nasty Girl), a somewhat puzzling and not entirely convincing move. The individual readings are largely informed by theoretical concerns and focus on the multi-layered reflection in the texts on the act of narration, whether in relation to specific representations, including ofcharacters coded as Jewish (e.g., Mime, Alberich, Hagen), or to the respective formal means (e.g., Wagner's use of language and his concern with dramaturgy, Lang's and Harbou's ambitions to tum film into the modem folk art). Here Levin relies heavily on psychoanalytic concepts (e.g., Freud on interpretation and reiteration), and, an almost obligatory reference in cultural studies today, Zizek (e.g., on fantasy and ideology). The author's insistence on locating the discourse of antisemitism in aesthetic registers offers a welcome departure from, and necessary complement to, more traditional studies that tend to focus on representations rather than representation as such. Therein lies the study's contribution to the study of antisemitism and, more generally, the discursive functions and aesthetic effects of alterity. The comparative perspective adds much to our understanding of the elusiveness ofracialized fantasies in high culture as well as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 163-164
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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