A Future without Jews: Max Nordau's Pre-Zionist Answer to the Other Jewish Question

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:
A Future without Jews: Max Nordau's Pre-Zionist Answer to the Other Jewish Question

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This chapter analyzes Max Nordau's best-selling works of 1880s liberal cultural criticism, Conventional Lies of Our Civilization and Paradoxes. Written a decade before his public self-identification with and affirmation of Judentum when he embraced Theodor Herzl's Zionism, these works demonstrate an obsessive avoidance of the Jewish Question, discussion of which pervaded Germanophone Europe. The chapter argues that Nordau's diagnoses of European modernity were constructed about this (all but total) absence of the Jewish people, especially their contemporary situation and future prospects; that is, he betrays his effort to foreclose his readers' possible identification of him as a Jew by employing puns, wordplays, displacements, conspicuous omissions and inclusions that are replete with references to problematic Jewish attempts at assimilation into European culture and language as well as to antisemitic depictions of the body of “the Jew,” especially as circumcised and diseased (e.g., associated with leprosy).

Keywords: antisemitism; assimilation; cultural criticism; identification; Jewish Question; language; leprosy; Max Nordau

Chapter.  8230 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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