German-Jewish Popular Culture before the Holocaust

Kafka's kitsch

By David A. Brenner

© 2009 – Routledge

128 pages

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Paperback: 9781138780088
pub: 2014-03-28
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Hardback: 9780415463232
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About the Book

David A. Brenner examines how Jews in Central Europe developed one of the first "ethnic" or "minority" cultures in modernity. Not exclusively "German" or "Jewish," the experiences of German-speaking Jewry in the decades prior to the Third Reich and the Holocaust were also negotiated in encounters with popular culture, particularly the novel, the drama and mass media.

Despite recent scholarship, the misconception persists that Jewish Germans were bent on assimilation. Although subject to compulsion, they did not become solely "German," much less "European." Yet their behavior and values were by no means exclusively "Jewish," as the Nazis or other anti-Semites would have it. Rather, the German Jews achieved a peculiar synthesis between 1890 and 1933, developing a culture that was not only "middle-class" but also "ethnic." In particular, they reinvented Judaic traditions by way of a hybridized culture.

Based on research in German, Israeli and American archives, German-Jewish Popular Culture before the Holocaust addresses many of the genres in which a specifically German-Jewish identity was performed, from the Yiddish theatre and Zionist humour all the way to sensationalist memoirs and Kafka’s own kitsch. This middle-class ethnic identity encompassed and went beyond religious confession and identity politics. In focusing principally on German-Jewish popular culture, this groundbreaking book introduces the beginnings of "ethnicity" as we know it and live it today.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Identifying (with) German-Jewish Popular Culture 1. Between High and Low, Laughter and Tears: Making Yiddish Theater "Respectable" in Turn-of-the-Century Jewish Berlin 2. "Schlemiel, Shlimazel": A Proto-Postcolonialist Satire of "Jews," "Blacks," and "Germans" 3. A German-Jewish Hermaphrodite—Or: What Sexology Contributed to B’nai B’rith 4. Franz's Folk(lore): Kafka’s Jewish Father-Complex 5. Pogrom in - Berlin? Working Through the Weimar Jewish Experience in Popular Fiction 6. After the "Schoah": Performing German-Jewish Symbiosis Today

About the Author

David A. Brenner is Director of the Houston Teachers Institute and Visiting Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Houston.

About the Series

Routledge Jewish Studies Series

Studies, which are interpreted to cover the disciplines of history, sociology, anthropology, culture, politics, philosophy, theology, religion, as they relate to Jewish affairs. The remit includes texts which have as their primary focus issues, ideas, personalities and events of relevance to Jews, Jewish life and the concepts which have characterised Jewish culture both in the past and today. The series is interested in receiving appropriate scripts or proposals.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
DRA004000
DRAMA / Continental European
HIS014000
HISTORY / Europe / Germany
LIT004210
LITERARY CRITICISM / Jewish
REL040030
RELIGION / Judaism / History