The Discourse on Yiddish in Germany from the Enlightenment to the Second Empire

The Discourse on Yiddish in Germany from the Enlightenment to the Second Empire

Jeffrey Grossman


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Camden House



Explores the uses of Yiddish language in German literary and cultural texts 1781 until the late nineteenth century.
This book explores the uses of Yiddish language in German literary and cultural texts from the onset of Jewish civil emancipation in the Germanies in 1781 until the late 19th century. Showing the various functions Yiddish assumed at this time, the study crosses traditional boundaries between literary and non-literary texts. It focuses on responses to Yiddish in genres of literature ranging from drama to language handbooks, from cultural criticism to the realist novel in order to address broader issues of literary representation and Jewish-German relations in the 18th and 19th centuries. Professor Grossman shows how the emergence of attitudes toward Jews and Yiddish is directly related to linguistic theories and cultural ideologies that bear a complex relationship to the changing social and political institutions of the time. Amidst the rise of national ideologies and modern anti-Semitism, the increasing consolidation of institutions, and the drive to cultural homogeneity in the 18th- and 19th-century German context, Yiddish functioned as an anarchic element that, in the view of its opponents, "threatened" to dissolve German national culture. Grossman locates the response to Yiddish in the context of historical events (the Hep Hep Riots of 1819, the Revolution of 1848) and institutional changes (Jewish legal emancipation, the promotion of Bildung as an educational and cultural ideal). In its methodology and its focus, this study seeks to show how the conflicted responses to the Yiddish language point to the problems that connected and frequently divided Jews and Germans as they sought to re-invent themselves for a new and unsettling context.


June 2000
3 black and white, 2 line illustrations
274 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571130198
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LAN009050, LIT004170
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Return of Yiddish and Other Considerations
Herder, Humbolt, and the Language of Diaspora Jews
Yiddish and the Invention of the German Jew
Language and Control: The Pedagogy and Performance of Yiddish in Linguistic and Theatrical Literature
The Threat of German Culture: The Function of Yiddish in German Realism after 1848
Conculsion: Beyond the Nineteenth-Century View of Yiddish
Works Consulted


Grossman's The Discourse on Yiddish in Germany represents academic publishing at its best. The author examines the fateful and horrific myth that Germany was a culturally homogeneous society and elucidates to what extent that myth was undermined through the presence of Yiddish which functioned as an anarchic element proclaiming the needs, wants, and contributions of a minority culture. MONATSHEFTE

Grossman's work is vital for anyone working in the field of German-Jewish history. GERMAN QUARTERLY

A very useful tool for students of the history of the Yiddish language and Jewish life in Germany. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

Grossman has done much to show the broader cultural basis of prejudicde in the age of Enlightenment. MODERN LANGUAGE REVIEW

Integrating insights from the fields of linguistics, culture studies, history, and Germanic studies, Grossman thus offers a thought-provoking and original analysis... SHOFAR

Grossman's book is a valuable reference to writings in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that relate to Yiddish. JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW

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