Germans, Jews, and the Claims of Modernity

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Overview

In this original analysis of the debates in Germany over Jews, Judaism, and Jewish emancipation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Jonathan M. Hess reconstructs a crucial chapter in the history of secular anti-Semitism. He examines not only the thinking of German intellectuals of the time but also that of Jewish writers, revealing the connections between anti-Semitism and visions of modernity, and the Jewish responses to the threat posed by these connections. By tracking the evolution of the widespread debate between Germans and Jews, Hess uncovers the process by which Judaism came to play a central role in defining secular universalism and political modernization.

For many German intellectuals concerned with imagining a new political order in the era of the French Revolution, Judaism was often perceived as the symbolic antithesis of secular modernity, the book shows. The response of leading Jewish thinkers was to offer their own reflections on modernity and universalism, grounded in Judaism's normative tradition. Hess considers the work of major figures of the period, such as Moses Mendelssohn, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and Friedrich Schleiermacher, as well as lesser-known writers, whose debates about the shape of the modern world provide us with fresh insights into Jewish emancipation, German colonial discourse, and the intersections between religious and political reform.

Author Biography: Jonathan M. Hess is associate professor of German and adjunct associate professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300097016
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 566,417
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Abbreviations
Introduction: Modernity and the Legacy of Enlightenment 1
1 Rome, Jerusalem and the Triumph of Modernity: Christian Wilhelm Dohm and the Regeneration of the Jews 25
2 Orientalism and the Colonial Imaginary: Johann David Michaelis and the Specter of Racial Antisemitism 51
3 Mendelssohn's Jesus: The Frustrations of Jewish Resistance 91
4 Philosophy, Antisemitism and the Politics of Religious Reform: Saul Ascher's Challenge to Kant and Fichte 137
5 Jewish Baptism and the Quest for World Rule: Perceptions of Jewish Power around 1800 169
Concluding Remarks 205
Notes 211
Select Bibliography 241
Index 247
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