German-Jewish Writers: The Immigrant Experience
For Jews, living in exile for nearly 1700 years, the opportunities to enjoy the rights of full citizens were never so promising as they were in Germany and Austria during the long 19th century. In the so-called century of emancipation, Jewish Germans took advantage of their newly acquired status as apparent equals to distinguish themselves in all walks of life, particularly in the arts and letters. But alongside such stories of success a new form of Jew hatred was gaining traction that would eventually lead to the destruction of European Jewry under the Nazis.
Jewish writing of this period is thus truly remarkable for how it anticipates and responds to the on-going threats immigrants face, including those in America in 2020. These works stand as testimony to the hopes and accomplishments of immigrants as well as to the existential dangers lurking behind the many smiling faces of their fellow citizens.
To that end, some of the questions we will pursue are: What does it mean to seek equal status as a citizen when the primary marker of one’s identity, that of being Jewish, is indicative of a dream to return to Zion? How does one demand of the other, the Jew, that they become German when the very notion of “Germanness” is vague, uncertain, and forever changing? We will also be interested in how Jews adopt to modernity. What does Judaism look like now that “God is dead”? Finally, what does the Jewish experience of this time tell us about the migrant and refugee crises of the 21st century.
Students can expect to learn the following in this class:
--an understanding of the Jewish experience in the modern world and how it helps us understand the difficulties immigrants worldwide face today
--what it means to be a Jew in a secular society and how that helps us
understand the challenges faced by religious outsiders
--an intellectual and cultural history of the long nineteenth century.