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

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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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Jewish Self-Hate:The Phenomenon of Lily Bloom in Will Self’s How The Dead Live. Zofia Janowska

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Jewish Self-Hate: The Phenomenon of Lily Bloom in Will Self’s How The Dead Live Zofia Janowska 1. Oxymoronic identity – is Jewish self-hate possible? 1.1 Defining anti-Semitism At first glance, the meaning of the term ‘anti-Semitism’ appears perfectly clear. The largest American on-line dictionary, Dictionary.com, describes an anti- Semite as ‘a person who discriminates against or is prejudiced or hostile toward Jews’1. The newest Encyclopaedia Britannica, on the other hand, defines anti- Semitism as ‘hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group’2. However, despite its apparent lack of ambiguity, the term in ques- tion is not necessarily so easy to define after all. As Fontette points out (1992: 7), the common understanding of ‘anti-Semitism’ seems inappropriate in rela- tion to the phenomenon this word actually describes. He draws attention to the fact that from a linguistic perspective the adjective ‘Semitic’ does not refer to racial or ethnic groups, but to languages. Yet Hebrew is not the only Semitic language – Arabic is also one of them. Furthermore, there seems to exist a con- fusion as to the exact differentiation between anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. Both Fontette (8) and Perry & Schweitzer (2002: 5) point to the more historical connotations of anti-Judaism, which deals primarily with the negation of or op- position to religious and theological aspects of Judaism, as, for instance, at the time of the emergence of Christianity as a separate religion (Fontette 1992: 8). Crossan (1998: 51) postulates that anti-Semitism is the combination of anti- Judaism and racism....

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