Was there anything particularly Modern
about Modern Jews? Was there something characteristically Jewish
about Modernism? In this episode, we hear from Scott Spector
, professor of History and German Studies at the University of Michigan, who complicates these often-asked questions in his new book Modernism Without Jews?: German Jewish Subjects and Histories
(Indian University Press, 2017). As we discuss, the title of this book is not an invitation to imagine an alternate history; rather, it is a provocation to notice how the key terms of this title get framed together in a variety of complicated, troubled, and sometimes dissonant ways -- both by historians and by the protagonists of this history. A noteworthy and widely-read historian of German, Jewish, and Modern culture, Spector here targets the historiography
of these fields and seeks to shake up the patterns and terms that have become all too stable within it.
Modernism Without Jews?
takes its readers through a series of case studies with short and dense chapters on Edith Stein, Sigmund Freud, Max Brod, the term “secularism,” Franz Kafka, and more. In this wide-ranging conversation, we talk about all of those figures, plus Hugo Bettauer’s satirical 1922 novel City Without Jews,
Gershom Scholem’s multiple reframings of his Jewish, German, and German-Jewish identities, and the complicated, existential operations involved in framing relationships between texts and contexts, persons and histories.
Daveeda Goldberg is a PhD candidate in the Department of Humanities at York University, in Toronto, Canada.