Zeitschrift für deutsch - jüdische Literatur und Kulturgeschichte (Journal of German - Jewish Literature and Culture History)
Ed. by Pollock, Benjamin / Weidner, Daniel / Wiese, Christian
In cooperation with Barouch, Lina
2 Issues per year
From Shtetl to Ghetto: Recognizing Yiddish in the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums
This article has two aims: it seeks, first, to explore the German reception and translational context for Yiddish literature in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And second, it seeks to explore the problem of recognition in relation to this literary reception. In so doing, it responds to ongoing disputes around the translation of Yiddish literature into German. A standard practice in such disputes is to attack the widely read translations of Alexander Eliasberg in terms that tend to echo the young Gershom Scholem’s own attack of 1917. By exploring the German translational and reception context to which these translations responded, this article seeks a different approach. It does so by asking: what kind of recognition – whether understood as knowledge or acknowledgement – were critics and translators able to bestow on Yiddish literature? Focusing on the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums (1837–1922), one of the first German venues for criticism and translation of modern Yiddish literature, this article argues that the AZJ’s contributors recognized the Yiddish writings of Sholem Asch, Sholem Aleichem, and especially I. L. Peretz as a form of “ghetto writing.” In doing so, they made possible the reception of Yiddish literature in German but also imposed strict limitations on how it was meant to be read, hence resulting in misrecognition. This misrecognition, in turn, raises questions about the capacity of this reception to produce the kind of “clarifying self-scrutiny” that cultural theorist Rita Felski finds to be among the central aims of modern writers and readers of fiction. It also results in a largely reduced ability to recognize the kind of exploration of the shtetl, with its metaphors and what Dan Miron calls its “metaphysics and mythological self-projection,” that Yiddish writers engaged in.
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