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The Feuilleton and Modern Jewish Cultures

Mon, December 17, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 3 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


In the nineteenth century, the feuilleton became a major cultural and political genre in newspapers across Europe and beyond. Feuilletons appeared in French, German, Russian, Polish, as well as Jewish languages like Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and Judeo-Arabic. By the early twentieth century, the feuilleton was a key site for discussions of national character, portraits of urban life, and aesthetic innovations. It was also increasingly perceived as a Jewish form, by Jewish, non-Jewish, and anti-Semitic writers.

This roundtable will explore the Jewishness, real and perceived, of the feuilleton. While many refer to feuilletons in the development of modern Jewish cultures, feuilletons have been overlooked and undertheorized in literary and historical studies. Why did so many major Jewish figures choose to write feuilletons? What was the function of the feuilleton in the press and literature? What marks a feuilleton as Jewish? What are the ramifications of calling a literary form “Jewish”?

Given the breadth of the topic, we hope to convene a slightly larger group of discussants to reflect on the subject from different linguistic, chronological, and disciplinary perspectives. Shachar Pinsker will focus on the feuilleton as a hybrid journalistic-literary genre, exploring how Heinrich Heine’s writings served as a model for a new style that explored urban Jewish modernity. Naomi Brenner will examine how roman-feuilletons, serialized novels, were adapted from French and German for Jewish-language audiences, offering alternative constructions of Jewishness. Derek Penslar will focus on Theodor Herzl, a masterful feuilletonist, who employed the feuilleton to tackle subjects such as anarchist terrorism, urban poverty, and colonialism. Bryan Roby will examine Judeo-Arabic feuilletons, with the example of a serialized Tunisian novella and its links to French, Arabic and East European Jewish literatures. Matthew Handelman will discuss how digital humanities methods allow us to explore the correspondence networks - in particular, that of German-Jewish journalist Siegfried Kracauer - informing the feuilleton at the Frankfurter Zeitung. Roy Holler will analyze Dahn Ben-Amotz’s radio feuilletons from the late 1950s, situating them at the intersection of diasporic Jewish culture and Israeli Sabra humor. The roundtable will be moderated by Liliane Weissberg, who brings a broad comparative perspective to the historical and literary study of the feuilleton.

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