Chapter

Introduction

in The Figural Jew

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780226315119
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226315133 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226315133.003.0001
Introduction

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In French history, the figure of the Jew has had an unstable meaning. From signifying an entrenched particularism in the eighteenth century, it represented the negative image of the Enlightenment ideal as a figure in the rhetoric of the French Revolution, and then functioned as a metonym for abstract universalism by the time of the 1789 revolution's centennial. One hundred years later, the Catholic Right's vocal leaders identified the cosmopolitan Jew as the secret victor of the French Revolution. The Jew was portrayed as the wandering nomad, the foreigner with no roots in France or anywhere else. As French ideals shifted, the negative characteristics associated with the Jew also changed. After World War II, the figural Jew gained a positive moral and political significance. This book explores the development of the trope of the Jew as a figure for the uprooted, focusing on the works of a number of France's most influential postwar thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, and Jacques Derrida.

Keywords: France; Jean-Paul Sartre; Emmanuel Levinas; Maurice Blanchot; Jacques Derrida; French Revolution; wandering nomad; figural Jew

Chapter.  11513 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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