The allure of Germanness in modern Ashkenazi literature : 1833-1933 / by Robert James Adler Peckerar
This study elucidates the often troubled relations between German and Jewish culture in East Central and Eastern Europe from the period of the so-called birth of modern Jewish literature until the eve of the destruction of European Jewry in the Nazi genocide. The dissertation examines the complex ways in which German literature, language, and modern culture are implicated in and affected by the formation of a distinctly modern Yiddish literature.Rather than working chronologically, I look at a number of textual junctions that book-end modern Yiddish cultural history, exploring this sometimes fruitful and sometimes destructive symbiosis with German culture. In chapter one, I look at the concept of “Modern Yiddish Literature” and its role as an object of study of the nascent field of Yiddish Studies in the 1920s. Two major schools of Yiddish scholarship developed during this period, a Marxist-Leninist one in the fledgling Soviet Union and a “Yiddishist” one in Poland. Both schools investigated the role of Germanized Jewish Enlighteners ( maskilim) who reluctantly turned to the Yiddish language to proselytize the Jewish masses into German liberalism. Their debates on the impact of pre-modern Yiddish (or Judeo-German) literature on the formation of modern Yiddish culture reflect the growing ideological polarization between these schools. In chapter two, I examine the work of the playwright Salomon Ettinger (1801–1856), a figure central in these debates. Ettinger's play Serkele reveals much about the emergence of a modern Yiddish literary idiom and its relation to German. I focus on how this linguistic relationship is read by the Soviet and Polish schools, with particular attention to the linguistic shifts and blurring of boundaries between Yiddish and German. The politicized discussion of German-Yiddish interlinguistic and intercultural relations continues in the third chapter on the magnum opus of the Soviet avant-garde Yiddish poet Moyshe Kulbak. His book-length poem, The Childe Harold of Dysna, charts the course of Yiddish literature's attraction to and engagement with German literature leading up to its final rejection as German culture was lurching toward fascism in the 1930s.
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