As German as Kafka

Identity and Singularity in German Literature around 1900 and 2000

Lene Rock

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The first extensive comparison of the German-Jewish literary corpus and contemporary minority writing in German

Since the turn of the 21st century, countless literary endeavors by 'new Germans' have entered the spotlight of academic research. Yet 'minority writing', with its distinctive renegotiation of traditional concepts of cultural identity, is far from a recent phenomenon in German literature. A hundred years previously, the intense involvement of German-Jewish intellectuals in cultural and political discourses on Jewish identity put a clear stamp on German modernism. This book is the first to unfold literary parallels between these two riveting periods in German cultural history. Drawing on the philosophical oeuvre of Jean-Luc Nancy, a comparative reading of texts by, amongst others, Beer-Hofmann, Kermani, Özdamar, Roth, Schnitzler, and Zaimoglu examines a variety of literary approaches to the thorny issue of cultural identity, while developing an overarching perspective on the ‘politics of literature’.

Ebook available in Open Access.
This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).



Chapter 1
Constitutive outsiders

1.1 Ambivalences of Kultur and Aufklärung
Constructions of German identity
Kultur versus Zivilisation

1.2 “Trapped by the image of a rejected self ”—Jews in Germany, German Jews
Emancipation and acculturation (1770–1880)
Modern anti-Semitism and Jewish dissimilation (1880–1933)
The ambivalence of assimilation 50

1.3 A reluctant country of immigration
From emigration to immigration
Kultur in the aftermath of non-policy: MultiKultiLeitkultur—‘Deutschland schafft sich ab’

1.4 Literature, identity, and singularity

Chapter 2
Aesthetes between identity and opposition 67

2.1 The authenticity paradox—Writing between identity and opposition

2.2 The aesthete’s retreat: Arthur Schnitzler’s Fräulein Else (1924) versus Navid Kermani’s Kurzmitteilung (2007)
The ‘value’ of cultural difference: Arthur Schnitzler and Navid Kermani
A conflict of codes: ‘aesthetics of opposition’ versus ‘aesthetics of identity’

2.3 The aesthete’s awakening: Beer-Hofmann’s Der Tod Georgs (1900) versus Zaimoglu’s Liebesbrand (2008) 102
Jewish aesthete and romantic rebel: Richard Beer-Hofmann and Feridun Zaimoglu
Realitätsablehnung & experiences of finitude
Aesthetics of becoming—The ambivalent rhetoric of blood


Chapter 3
City dwellers between difference and indifference

3.1 Images of the city: emancipatory visions and spatialized difference
Berlin: image of an unsettled national identity
Indifference to difference
The city as a site of Jewish self-definition
Urban stereotype and spatialized difference

3.2 The failure of exemplarity—‘Figures of immanence’:Ludwig Jacobowski’s Werther, der Jude (1892) versus Terezia Mora’s Alle Tage (2004)
Exemplarity, identification, alienation
‘Figures of immanence’: the atomic individual versus the Leerstelle
Metropolitan milieus: ‘the law of the proper’ versus Verletzbarkeit

3.3 Disoriented city dwellers—Figures of ‘distanced proximity’:

Franz Hessel’s Spazieren in Berlin (1929) versus Emine Sevgi Ozdamar’s “Der Hof im Spiegel” (2001)
Reading the city
Disoriented/dis-Oriented city dwellers


Chapter 4
Family heroes between myth and storytelling

4.1 Writing in the shadow of an empire

4.2 Family heroes redefined: Joseph Roth’s Radetzkymarsch (1932) versus Dimitre Dinev’s Engelszungen (2003)

Storytellers between empires and nations:Joseph Roth and Dimitre Dinev
“Listening to the same story”—Heroic grandfathers and the power of fiction
“Against the confines of the image”—Un-/antiheroic grandsons and the power of storytelling

4.3 “Diaspora’s children”—Heroics of endurance and hope:
Joseph Roth’s Hiob (1930) versus Zsusza Bank’s Der Schwimmer (2002)
Between East and West—Between pathos and hope: Joseph Roth and Zsuzsa Bank
Communities of violence—Communities of silence
Allowing something to be said—Hope emerging from silence



The fallibility of Bildung

Chapter 1: Constitutive outsiders
Chapter 2: Aesthetes between identity and opposition
Chapter 3. City dwellers between difference and indifference
Chapter 4. Family heroes between myth and storytelling
Conclusion: The fallibility of Bildung



Format: Monograph - free ebook - ePUB

370 pages

ISBN: 9789461662859

Publication: December 12, 2019

Languages: English


Lene Rock obtained a PhD in Literature from KU Leuven in 2017.