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Bitter Spirits: Jewish Romanticism and the Demons of Unbelief

April 4 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Jewish intertextuality typically refers to the complex relationship between biblical and rabbinic literature. In the nineteenth century, Jewish Romantics (better known in Hebrew as maskilim) considerably expanded their intertextual range to include contemporary philosophy and poetry. Yet, both the style and the substance of such daring experiments in literary appropriation remained rooted in traditional interpretive practices, driven by resolutely rabbinic ends. This lecture considers an outstanding case of Jewish Romantic intertextuality in which a Hebrew writer called M. L. Lilienblum (1843-1910) mobilized the work of Schiller and Pushkin in his struggle against the “demons of unbelief.” Best remembered as the author of an autobiographical novel called Errors of Youth (1876), a significant landmark in Jewish intellectual history and a turning point in Hebrew literature, Lilienblum was also the founder of Zionism in Russia; his imaginative engagement with the “alien wisdom” of German and Russian Romanticism makes a powerful argument against the prevailing consensus that insists on a distinction between Jewish culture and Jewish ethics.


April 4
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


Toy Lounge