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Gender, Age, and Spaces of (Jewish) Alterity in Twentieth-Century Germany

Sun, December 18, 4:15 to 5:45pm, Sheraton Boston Gardner 3rd Floor (AV)

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


In scholarship and Jewish imagination, the Jewish home is frequently conjured as a shelter from an outside world saturated with antisemitic hostility. However, the traditional familial home—Jewish and otherwise—in the twentieth century was often also a site that reproduced homophobic and sexist norms, compelling individuals to seek refuge outside its confines. This interdisciplinary panel will discuss three Jewish women creatives— Esther Singer Kreitman, Annette Eick, and Valeska Gert—who, through their participation in (Jewish) spaces of alterity in twentieth-century Germany, come to envision radically expansive ways of being as women and as Jews. It takes as a point of departure the Arendtian notion of a “space of appearance,” a site that enables its inhabitants to escape the roles they embody elsewhere in society. For the Jewish women writers and performers we discuss, these intimate spaces activate publics that embolden departure from the traditional and/or bourgeois Jewish milieus of their childhoods. This panel is thus centered on the question of what conditions are necessary for the rupture of continuities and the creation of transformative works.

The papers presented by Julie Sharff and Meghan Paradis examine spaces encountered by young Jewish women in Berlin at the moment of their coming-of-age. In Sharff’s analysis of Kreitman’s novel, DER SHEYDIM TANTS (1936), a kosher hotel in Berlin is a bubble for Jewish praxis as a meeting point between East and West. The hotel is a site of liminality—a Jewish space and a stepping stone away from tradition—demonstrated through the young protagonist, Devorale’s, undesired wedding. Paradis situates the Weimar-era adolescent Jewish lesbian writer, Annette Eick, within her principal haunt, the lesbian club Monbijou, envisioning it as an intellectual home that fostered intimacy and vulnerability, allowing for the imagining of other queer (Jewish) futures in her serialized novel, PETRA (1930). Considering the connections between growing up and growing old, Jackie Davis analyzes German/Jewish avant-garde dancer Valeska Gert’s performance venue Ziegenstall (1951-1978), through which she argues Gert produced new terms for evaluating aging, post-WWII Jewish femininity.

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