Rhetoric of Cultural Dialogue: Jews and Germans from Moses Mendelssohn to Richard Wagner and Beyond

Overview

In this groundbreaking work, the author effects the first extended rhetorical-philosophical reading of the historically problematic relationship between Jews and Germans, based on an analysis of texts from the Enlightenment through Modernism by Moses Mendelssohn, Friedrich and Dorothea Schlegel, Karl Marx, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud. The theoretical underpinning of the work lies in the author’s rereading, in terms of contemporary rhetorical theory, of the medieval tradition known as ...

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Overview

In this groundbreaking work, the author effects the first extended rhetorical-philosophical reading of the historically problematic relationship between Jews and Germans, based on an analysis of texts from the Enlightenment through Modernism by Moses Mendelssohn, Friedrich and Dorothea Schlegel, Karl Marx, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud. The theoretical underpinning of the work lies in the author’s rereading, in terms of contemporary rhetorical theory, of the medieval tradition known as “figural representation,” which defines the Jewish-Christian relation as that between the dead, prefigural letter and the living, fulfilled spirit.

After arguing that the German Enlightenment ultimately plays out the historical phantasm of a necessary “Judaization” of Protestant rationality, the author shows that German Early Romanticism consists fundamentally in the attempt to solve the aporias raised by this impossible confrontation between Protestant spirit and Jewish letter. In readings of Dorothea Schlegel—Mendelssohn’s daughter—and her husband Friedrich Schlegel, the author provides a new interpretation of the Neo-Catholic turn of later German Romanticism. Further, he situates the proleptic end and reversal of the project of Jewish emancipation in the two extreme versions of late-nineteenth-century anti-Judaism, those of Marx and Wagner, here viewed as binary concretizations of a specifically post-Romantic paganized Protestantism.

Finally, the author argues that twentieth-century Modernism as represented by Nietzsche and Freud renews, if in a multiply ironic displacement, the secret “Judaizing” tendencies of the Enlightenment. Fascism and Communism both denigrate this Modernism, which affirms the letter of language as quasi-synonymous with the force of temporality—or anticipatory repetition—that disrupts all claims to the full presence of spirit. The book ends with a note on recent debates about Holocaust memory.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This monumental work traces the intellectual and cultural history of the tragic failure of German-Jewish relations with extraordinary erudition, scholarship, and moral sensitivity. Librett manages to bring into a remarkable narrative and conceptual coherence the major political, philosophical, theological, and aesthetic debates of the era." —Eric Santner,University of Chicago
Booknews
Reading texts from the German Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Modernism, Librett (modern languages and literatures, Loyola U.) interprets Mendelssohn, his daughter and son-in-law Dorothea and Friedrich Schlegel, Marx, Wagner, Nietzsche, and Freud in terms of the medieval tradition of figural representation, which defined the Jewish-Christian schism as that between the dead, abstract word and the living, fulfilled spirit. Illustrations include the famous painting,. A postscript comments on debates about Holocaust memory. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804739313
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 428
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeffrey S. Librett is Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures at Loyola University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface: What This Book Is About
Introduction: From the Rhetoric of Dialogue to the End of Jewish-German Emancipation 1
1 Judaism Between Power and Knowledge: The Undecidability of the Law in Moses Mendelssohn's Jerusalem, or on Religious Power and Judaism (1783) 43
2 The Ontorhetoric of "Refined Pantheism" in Moses Mendelssohn's Morning Hours, or Lectures on the Existence of God (1785) 75
3 The Birth of German Romanticism out of the "Dialogue" Between (Protestant) Spirit and (Jewish) Letter: Friedrich Schlegel's "On Lessing" (1797) and Its "Conclusion" (1801) 103
4 Duplicitous Engenderments of the Literal Spirit: Friedrich Schlegel's "On Philosophy: To Dorothea" (1798) and Lucinde (1799) 131
5 Resisting "Fulfillment": The Undecidable Limit Between Figural and Literal in Dorothea Veit's Florentin: A Novel (1801) 176
6 Protestant Negativity as "Prefiguration" of Neo-Catholic Positivity in Friedrich Schlegel's Lessing's Thoughts and Opinions (1804) 201
7 The Reversal of Emancipation on the Left: Karl Marx's "On the Jewish Question" (1843) 219
8 The Reversal of Emancipation on the Right: Richard Wagner's "Judaism in Music" (1850) 241
Postscript: Through Modernism to - "Emancipation" from Holocaust Memory? 259
Notes 287
Works Cited 371
Index 385
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