Theses Doctoral

Jews Behind Glass: The Ethnographic Impulse in German-Jewish and Yiddish Literature, 1900-1948

Spinner, Samuel Jacob

This dissertation demonstrates that German and Yiddish literature about Jews from the turn of the twentieth century until after the Holocaust is characterized by several discourses and tropes borrowed from contemporary ethnography, anthropology, and folklore studies. The influence of these disciplines is manifest in the representation of Eastern European Jews as primitive savages, the depiction of the Jewish people as being at risk of extinction, the articulation of the need to salvage European Jewish culture, and the literary conjunction of folklore with contemporary instances of violence against Jews.

These motifs are especially prominent in the works of Alfred Döblin, Franz Kafka, and Arnold Zweig in German and S. An-sky in Yiddish. This dissertation identifies the permutations of these ethnographic discourses in German-Jewish and Yiddish literature, opening new avenues of exploration in the study of the literary and cultural construction of Jewish identity in European modernity.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Germanic Languages
Thesis Advisors
Anderson, Mark
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 27, 2012