“Feminization” and the Problem of Jewish Persistence

Jay Geller

in The Other Jewish Question

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780823233618
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780823241781 | DOI:
“Feminization” and the Problem of Jewish Persistence

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This chapter examines how, in Tractatus-Theologico Politicus's critique of the doctrine of the Jewish people's eternal election and their divine chosenness, Spinoza juxtaposed circumcision, as the principal enabler of both the persistence of the Jews and the hatred of them by others, with the rendering of Jewry “effoemininarent” by the fundamental principles of their religion. The chapter argues that this passage, called by Leo Strauss “Spinoza's Last Testament”, became a lens through which “the Jew” has been identified since the late eighteenth century, when the meaning of “effoemininarent” became increasingly correlated with feminization. The argument is made through extensive analyses of the gendered language employed by Berthold Auerbach, Moses Hess, George Eliot, Leo Pinsker, Julius Wellhausen, Hermann Cohen, and Sigmund Freud among others in their reception of the Spinozan passage.

Keywords: Berthold Auerbach; chosenness; circumcision; George Eliot; feminization; Sigmund Freud; Benedict Spinoza; Leo Strauss; Tractatus Theologico Politicus; Julius Wellhausen

Chapter.  7265 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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