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Jewish Primitivism$
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Samuel J. Spinner

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781503628274

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503628274.001.0001

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The End of Jewish Primitivism

(p.170) Conclusion
Jewish Primitivism

Samuel J. Spinner

Stanford University Press

The Conclusion considers the meaning of Jewish primitivism in light of the catastrophic destruction of Jewish life in Europe during the First World War and its decimation in the Holocaust. Through a reading of two short texts by the Czech-German-Jewish journalist Egon Erwin Kisch, I show how Kisch exposes the limits of Jewish primitivism as a constructive critical force, compromised by capitalism, by extremist political ideologies, and by violent death. In these stories – one about a search for the Golem of Prague, the other about a search for “Indian Jews” in Mexico – Kisch’s primitivism catalyzes a sense of solidarity with the presumed primitive. It is a solidarity born of the common experience of violence and traumatic loss, but it generates a melancholic humanism that was the end of an aesthetic that, after the Holocaust, no longer had the same meaning.

Keywords:   Egon Erwin Kisch, Holocaust, First World War, Golem, humanism, trauma

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