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Contemporary German Jewish Literature and Culture

Tue, December 18, 12:45 to 2:15pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Beacon Hill 2 & 3

Session Submission Type: Lightning Session


German Jewish Studies as a field has been defined to a considerable degree by the study of thinkers and writers in the first half of the 20th century, the situation and influence of Jews in medieval Germany, and, to a lesser degree, by work on the towering figures of the emerging German Jewish cultural elite from the Enlightenment through the 19th century and the schools and movements they founded. Much less attention has been paid to what has emerged since the end of the Cold War as a new era of German Jewish literature and culture. The panel hopes to spark a discussion on these recent developments. Although the panel topic is broad, the proposed short papers portend a remarkable cohesiveness in the way they understand and conceptualize these new German Jewish generation’s productions. The papers emphasize, and scrutinize, the minority status and the cosmopolitan orientation that is often considered characteristic of contemporary German Jewish writing or other forms of media presence. They look at the role multidirectional memory plays, and they probe the recurring themes of the complex and complicated relationships to Judaism and Israel on the one hand and Germany’s or Austria’s changing sociocultural environment on the other.

Stuart Taberner enquires into the various categorizations for this kind of writing and suggests that we ought to understand contemporary German Jewish writing as a new kind of world literature. Agnes Mueller examines Israel as a site of projection in recent German Jewish literature and asks how traumas of the past become embedded in the narratives presented in this writing. She ends by pointing to notions of cosmopolitan and multidirectional memory. Sebastian Wogenstein discusses how multidirectional memory creates ripple effects in this writing that break open binary models of culture and create new forms of solidarity across ethnic and religious boundaries. Elizabeth Loentz shows how counterfactual narratives serve as ways to reflect on the meaning of the past for the present and the emancipatory power of the imagination. Maria Roca Lizarazu focuses on tropes of confrontational, provocative or rebellious Jewishness which shape the public perception and (self-)image of many contemporary German Jewish writers and investigates the role of gender and strategic reference to “being minor” in this context.

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