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Reconstructing Jewish Identity in Pre- and Post-Holocaust Literature and Culture


Edited By Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pedich and Malgorzata Pakier

The volume aims to illuminate the issue of Jewish identity in the context of its pre-Holocaust European origins and post-Holocaust American and Israeli settings. Jewish experience and identity construction in Europe, America and Israel are presented through diverse perspectives: Merchant of Venice in the light of Levinas’ ethics, Italian Jews in the 20th century, German-speaking Jewish authors in the Nazi 1930s, the Hassidic culture of learning, the representation of contemporary Poland in Jewish photography, Jewish life in America in a kashrut observing Orthodox neighbourhood, Kaballah in feminist cyberpunk fiction by Marge Piercy, constructing Jewish identity in British fiction in novels by Will Self and Muriel Spark, and Israeli films focusing on ethical solutions to political problems.


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Levinas Reads Shakespeare. Małgorzata Grzegorzewska


Levinas Reads Shakespeare Małgorzata Grzegorzewska 1. The Merchant and the Jew The occurrence of two titles is very rare in the Shakespeare canon (the only other instance being Twelfth Night or What You Will), and it is worth our notice that only in the case of The Merchant the editors dutifully report that “the alter- native title probably reflects Shylock’s impact on the audience” (Shakespeare 1994: 425). The issue at stake, then, is the dramatic presentation of a powerful individual who is capable of “stealing” the spectator’s attention. Re-reading The Merchant of Venice, Stephen Greenblatt, one of the leading American Shakespeare scholars today, likewise anchors his argument in the consideration of the commonplace confusion concerning the title of the play: Why did the character of Shylock the Jew take over the comedy in which he ap- pears? – asks Greenblatt – For almost everyone thinks that the merchant of Venice of the play’s title is Shylock. Even when you realise that the merchant is not the Jew, even when you know that the title is referring to the Christian Antonio, you still in- stinctively make the mistake. And this is not exactly a mistake: the Jew is the play’s centre. The Merchant of Venice has a host of characters who compete for the audi- ence’s attention ... but it is the Jewish villain everyone remembers, and not simply as villain (Greenblatt 2004: 257-58). This conundrum, so succinctly brought to light in Greenblatt’s New Historical analysis, may account for a number of other...

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