Confrontations/Accommodations: German-Jewish Literary and Cultural Relations from Heine to Wassermann

By Holub, Robert C. | Shofar, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Confrontations/Accommodations: German-Jewish Literary and Cultural Relations from Heine to Wassermann


Holub, Robert C., Shofar


Confrontations/Accommodations: German-Jewish Literary and Cultural Relations from Heine to Wassermann, edited by Mark H. Gelber. Conditio Judaica, vol. 46. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 2004. 288 pp. euro66.00.

The essays collected in this volume honor Jeffrey L. Sammons on the occasion of his retirement from Yale University. The Leavenworth Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures since 1979 and a faculty member at Yale since 1964, Sammons has written widely and wisely on topics dealing primarily with German literature of the nineteenth century, although he has also contributed a volume on the seventeenth-century mystic writer Angelus Silesius, essays on various authors from the eighteenth century, and a monograph on literary sociology. The focus in his scholarship has not been exclusively German-Jewish authors, but his extensive preoccupation with one of the greatest Jewish authors in the German canon, Heinrich Heine, justifies a Festschrift devoted to the "confrontations and accommodations" of Jews in Germany.

Appropriately the first eight of the fourteen essays deal with Heine or events and authors contemporary with Heine. In the opening essay on Lessing and Heine, Jocelyn Kolb takes exception to the recent trend in Heine scholarship that explores the writer's Jewish identity, directing our attention instead to the "figurative" sense in which Heine identified with his Jewish heritage, one that entails wit and critique, and that places Heine in the proximity of both Nathan, Lessing's exemplary Jewish hero, and Nathan's creator. Dealing with the writings of Heine's last years, Roger Cook proposes that Heine did not affirm a Judeocentric view in his late works, but rather rethought the modern world from the perspective of his own diasporic existence. The volume's editor, Mark Gelber, demonstrates how Heine-and antisemitic writers later in the century-participates in the construction of the noble Sephardic Jew as an alternative to the degenerate or degenerating Ashkenaz in The Rabbi from Bacherach. The director of the Heinrich-Heine Institute in Düsseldorf, Joseph Kruse, provides insight on the difficulties of ascertaining the authenticity of objects and documents that can shed light on Heine's biography, in particular his early years, about which we know relatively little. And Hiroshi Kiba examines the criticism leveled against Goethe in the writings of Heine and his contemporary, Ludwig Börne, speculating that their relationship to Goethe was affected by problems of Jewish emancipation in early nineteenth-century Germany.

Dieter Lamping's essay is the first to abandon the exclusive focus on Heine, but it does remain within the period during which Heine wrote. Lamping is concerned with Börnes internationalism as the most important facet of his political critique. Mark Webber's contribution is more historical in nature. He examines a dispute known as the "Kölner Kirchenstreit" (Cologne Church Dispute), which dealt ostensibly with controversies between Catholics and Protestants, and which was initiated to some extent by the conservative Catholic Joseph Görres.

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