Orientalism and the figure of the Jew
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Orientalism and the figure of the Jew / Jeffrey S. Librett.
|Main author:||Librett, Jeffrey S., (Author)|
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"This book demonstrates the inextricable entanglement of Orientalism and anti-Judaism in modern German letters. It shows how historicist narratives posit the Orient as fetish in lieu of absent origins, then appropriate this fetish by applying to the East-West relation the Christian supercessionist typology earlier developed to construe the Jewish-Christian relation"--
"Orientalism and the Figure of the Jew proposes a new way of understanding modern German Orientalism in particular and modern Orientalism in general. To do so, it traces a path of modern Orientalist thought in German across crucial writings from the late eighteenth to the mid twentieth centuries, texts by Herder, F. Schlegel, Goethe, Hegel, Schopenhaer, Buber, Kafka, and Freud. It argues first of all that Orientalism and anti-Judaism are inextricably entangled. It suggests, further, that we misconstrue modern Orientalism if we see it exclusively as an expression of superior Western "material" power. Rather, while the modern West certainly asserts "material" power in the East, this self-assertion is overdetermined by a "spiritual" weakness of sorts: by an anxiety about the absence of absolute foundations and values that coincides with Western modernity itself. The book shows how the modern--here, German--West posits the Oriental "origin" as a fetish to fill the absent place of lacking foundations. Orientalism thus has the structure of (Freudian-Lacanian) disavowal. But a fetish always needs to be made mine. This particular fetish--the fetish of the Eastern "origin"--Is appropriated as Western by means of the displaced, quasi-secularized application of Christian typology. The Orient now prefigures its Occidental realization as Judaism once prefigured its Christian fulfillment. This structure of appropriation entails, however, that the Orient is always double, divided into an inappropriable, "bad" Orient and an appropriable, "good" Orient, just as in Christian typology prefigural Judaism was haunted by its irredeemably material, pagan double. This splitting of the Orient appears in the German tradition--but not just there--especially as the Semite-Aryan couple. The book traces variations on this theme through historicist texts of the nineteenth century, and then shows how high modernists like Buber, Kafka, Mann, and Freud place this historicist narrative in question. After a discussion of Orientalist dimensions in contemporary German culture, the book concludes with the outlines of a cultural historiography that would distance itself from the metaphysics of historicism, confronting instead its underlying anxieties"--
New York :
Fordham University Press,
Includes bibliographical references and index.