Book

Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

Neil Levi

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2013 | ISBN: 9780823255061
Published online May 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780823260867 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823255061.001.0001
Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

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From the mid-nineteenth century until the end of the Second World War, if not beyond, certain works of European modernist art, literature, and music that were neither by nor about Jews have nevertheless been interpreted as somehow Jewish, or, more precisely, Jewified. This book argues that these strange interpretations, although hostile toward and often deliberately incomprehending of their object, need to be treated as integral to the history of European modernism. To grasp why, it suggests we turn our attention away from the dominant scholarly preoccupation with abject Jewish bodies and toward the antisemitic fantasy of a mobile, dangerous, contagious Jewish spirit, a spirit identified both with modernity and regression to an ancient past. The book tracks how this fantasy unfolds in the antimodernist polemics of Richard Wagner, Max Nordau, Wyndham Lewis, and Louis-Ferdinand Celine, reaching its apotheosis in the notorious 1937 Nazi exhibition of “Degenerate Art,” and then turns to James Joyce, Theodor Adorno, and Samuel Beckett, offering radical new interpretations of these modernist authors to show how each presents his own poetics as a self-conscious departure from the modern antisemitic imaginary.

Keywords: European modernism; Jews; modernity; Jewish spirit; Degenerate Art; modern antisemitic imagery

Book.  272 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

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Genealogies in Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

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Jews, Art, and History in Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

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Fanatical Abstraction in Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

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Straw Men in Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

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Images of the Bilderverbot in Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

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The Labor of Late Modernist Poetics in Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

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