Writing a Future State: Spatial Imaginaries of German Jewish Literature, 1885–1932

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2023

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This dissertation provides a literary history of German Zionist literature in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Throughout, the analyses attend to the German Jewish context and literary specificity of each text. In so doing, they reflect on the manner in which each text constructs space and place as a means to reflect on what it means to be Jewish in the modern world. The first chapter discusses Edmund Menachem Eisler’s Ein Zukunftsbild (1885) and situates it in its German Jewish emancipatory context with special attention to its relationship to the tradition of German Jewish middlebrow literature. The second chapter reads Theodor Herzl’s Das neue Ghetto (1897) and Altneuland (1902) as reflecting the lessons and problems of the German Jewish emancipatory project, something made legible in the spatial imagination and organization at the heart of both works. The dissertation then continues with a discussion of Der Verschollene (1927), reading Kafka’s first novel as a meditation on the desirability and pitfalls of literary utopias made real. It concludes with a reading of Arnold Zweig’s De Vriendt kehrt heim (1932), understanding the work as an expression of the author’s disenchantment with the violent nationalism he then saw as emerging in the Yishuv. It understands Zweig’s novel as an attempt to recuperate an alternative nationalism informed by an ethical Jewish tradition. In total, these readings reconstruct a literary genealogy of German Jewish texts that functioned as an important location for dreaming about, questioning, and critiquing the modern Zionist movement in the years before 1932.

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Shelly, Joshua D. (2023). Writing a Future State: Spatial Imaginaries of German Jewish Literature, 1885–1932. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/28302.

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