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The Temple of Culture: Assimilation & Anti-Semitism in by Jonathan Freedman

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By Jonathan Freedman

From the start of recent highbrow background to the tradition wars of the current day, the event of assimilating Jews and the idiom of "culture" were essentially intertwined with one another. Freedman's publication starts by means of photographs of the stereotypical Jew within the literary tradition of 19th- and twentieth-century England and the US, after which considers the efforts at the a part of Jewish critics and intellectuals to counter this snapshot within the public sphere. It explores the unforeseen parallels and ironic reversals among a cultural dispensation that had ambivalent responses to Jews and Jews who turned exponents of that very culture.

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Extra info for The Temple of Culture: Assimilation & Anti-Semitism in Literary Anglo-America

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16 Precisely to undo this Hegelian hierarchy Benjamin turns, in the Origins of the German Tragic Drama, from the symbol to allegory as a means of thinking about language—and it is not the least of the ironies generated thereby that he had his greatest influence over a closeted Nazi collaborator who, working together with an assimilated Algerian Jew, reoriented critical discourse in the academy away from logocentric New Criticism to one more suspicious of the Christian-inflected move to the metaphysical that had been one of its staples.

Hegel is writing here in counter to Moses Mendelssohn’s arguments for full emancipation and religious tolerance—not necessarily, it must be stressed, the same thing—based on the indispensability of Judaism to Christian belief. Mendelssohn argued that Christians need to allow emancipated Jews to be religious Jews, rather than demand their conversion, in order to maintain the coherence of Christian identity, an identity that rests upon Judaism itself. And as Kant—contemporary, rival, and friend of Mendelssohn—recognized, acceptance of Mendelssohn’s argument would lead to the utter undoing of the typological house of cards in which the Jew is deemed essential but made subordinate to a Christian dispensation, The Jew in the Museum 41 since the Jewish faith itself is, according to the avowal of Christians, the substructure upon which the superstructure of Christianity rests, the demand that it be abandoned is equivalent to expecting someone to demolish the ground floor of a house in order to take up his abode in the second story.

He usefully distinguishes between thinking of antiSemitism as an exemplary instance of heterophobia, or fear and resentment of others, and as proteophobia, or fear of that which stands outside of, and subverts, the cognitive categories by which the world is organized and hence by which even the category of otherness itself is established. Bauman writes: The great fear of modern life is that of under-determination, unclarity, uncertainty—in other words, ambivalence . . the Jews had entered modern times as ambivalence incarnate.

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