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Meditations on Jewish Creative Identity

Representations of the Jewish Artist in the Works of German-Jewish Writers from Heine to Feuchtwanger


Helen Ferstenberg

Through an analysis of representations of Jewish artists in the works of German-Jewish writers, this book reveals that the issue of a Jewish creative identity was one of the most explosive aspects of a dual German-Jewish identity. In the shadow of both a widespread anti-Semitic stereotype which denied creativity to Jews and also of increasingly contentious debates in Jewish circles on the proper role of Jewish artists within German culture, German-Jewish writers who portrayed Jewish artists in their works were forced to grapple with some of the most contentious questions of their day: the relative importance of German and Jewish allegiance; the issue of Jewish distinctiveness or its opposite expressed in style, language, and theme; and the viability of a «Jewish» participation in German culture. Existing studies sometimes posit Jewish self-hatred or blind attachment to German culture and Enlightenment ideals as characteristic of a broad spectrum of German-Jewish writers. In contrast, this book demonstrates how many German-Jewish writers possessed a profound awareness of cultural conditions and a conscientious desire to integrate the complex demands of a dual identity.
Contents: Jewishness, Poesy, and the Artist in the Writings of Heinrich Heine – Assimilation and the Artist: Berthold Auerbach’s and Karl Emil Franzos’s Meditations on Jewish Creative Identity – The Difference of the Jewish Artist: Arthur Schnitzler and Debates on Jewish Creativity in the Viennese Fin-de-Siècle – The Artist Beyond German Culture: Zionist Thought, the Search for an Alternative Jewish Creative Identity, and the Case of Lion Feuchtwanger.