Jewish Frontiers: Essays on Bodies, Histories, and Identities

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9781403965608: Jewish Frontiers: Essays on Bodies, Histories, and Identities

Jewish history has generally been understood as the history of a people displaced from their homeland, and this has played a defining role in how we understand Jewish identity. In this series of interlinked essays, noted critic Sander L. Gilman suggests that we examine Jewish history from a different starting point. Instead of focusing on "diaspora", Gilman reimagines Jewish history as the story of people living on a "frontier" -- a place where all peoples, including Jews, interacted to define themselves and those they encounter in reality or fantasy. Gilman looks at the representation of Jews and Jewishness in film, literature, and history. He addresses a wide range os questions, including: how has the Holocaust been represented in comic films, from Jakob the Liar to Life Is Beautiful? What do fantasies about the Jewish origin of smoking in Europe, debates about Jewish genetic disease, and literary representations from Proust and Kafka to Zadie Smith tell us about the imagination of Jewish identity?

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In this collection of new essays, Sander Gilman muses on Jewish memory and representation throughout the twentieth-century. Bringing together the worlds of literature, medicine, and popular culture in his characteristic ways, Gilman looks at new, post-diasporic ways of understanding the limits of Jewish identity. Topics include the development of the genre of Holocaust comedy, the imagination of the relationship of the body, disease, and identity, and the place of Jews in today's multicultural society.

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"Eschewing a traditional center-periphery approach to Jewish history, Gilman (re)considers the Jews, even those in Israel, as a frontier people, and the culture that they produce as a reaction to and product of the decentered space that they inhabit. Through an analysis of novels and films, Gilman suggestively explores the ways in which Jews have used the creative arts to explore ad shape new expressions of Jewish identity. Sander Gilman's latest volume positively sparkles with new, thought-provoking ideas."
--John Efron, Koret Chair in Jweish History, University of California-Berkeley, and author of Medicine and the German Jews: A History

"This fascinating collection of linked essays imagines a time, after Freud, when we will all be educated to 'move freely across frontiers.' Assuming his familiar guise as an eclectic and mischievous bricoleur, Sander Gilman here adds significantly to his outstanding corpus. New intellectual frontiers are created around film comedies and the Shoah; smoking Jews; Proust; Kafka; identitarianism; and Jews and multiculturalism. In rightly questioning a conservative multiculturalism and the center/periphery model of diasporic studies, the collection confirms Gilman's abiding role as a provocative and pioneering cultural critic."
--Bryan Cheyette, professor of twentieth-century literature, University of Southampton, and author of Constructions of "the Jew" in English Literature and Society

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