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Jewish Pasts, German FictionsHistory, Memory, and Minority Culture in Germany, 1824-1955$
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Jonathan Skolnik

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780804786072

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804786072.001.0001

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Jewish History Under the Sign of Secularization

Jewish History Under the Sign of Secularization

Berthold Auerbach's Spinoza (1837)

(p.23) One Jewish History Under the Sign of Secularization
Jewish Pasts, German Fictions

Jonathan Skolnik

Stanford University Press

This chapter argues that Jewish historical fiction arose in direct response to the secularization of Jewish history, a process that can never be total in relation to Jewish culture. It is hardly a coincidence that the first major German-Jewish historical novel, by Berthold Auerbach (1837), takes Baruch Spinoza as its subject. Auerbach, a major popularizer of Spinoza, deftly uses dissimilation to establish a space for Jewish identity as part of an ethos of universal humanism and German cultural nationalism. Auerbach's novel weaves chapters from the Sephardic-Jewish past into a narrative familiar to readers of the German classics, and can only be understood as a response to texts by Goethe and Gutzkow.

Keywords:   Auerbach, Spinoza, Goethe, Gutzkow, Wandering Jew, historical time

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