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Judaism Musical and Unmusical

Modernity gave rise to a Jewish consciousness that has increasingly distanced itself from the sacred in favor of worldliness and secularity. Judaism Musical and Unmusical traces the formulation of this secular Jewishness from its Enlightenment roots through the twentieth century to explore the infinite variations of modern Jewish experience in Central Europe and beyond.

Engaging the work of such figures as Sigmund Freud, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, Charlotte Salomon, Arnaldo Momigliano, Leonard Bernstein, and Daniel Libeskind, Michael Steinberg shows how modern Jews advanced cosmopolitanism and multiplicity by helping to loosen—whether by choice or by necessity—the ties that bind any culture to accounts of its origins. In the process, Steinberg composes a mosaic of texts and events, often distant from one another in time and place, that speak to his theme of musicality. As both a literal value and a metaphorical one, musicality opens the possibility of a fusion of aesthetics and analysis—a coupling analogous to European modernity’s twin concerns of art and politics.

256 pages | 39 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2007

History: European History, General History

Jewish Studies

Music: General Music


"Steinberg takes Said’s symbolic Jewishness as the starting point for a broader, fascinating excursion into the ideological thickets of German Jewish culture, identity, memory and history. In the process, he successfully demolishes some myths, while raising new and challenging questions about the meaning of the German Jewish past."—James Loeffler, Haaretz

James Loeffler | Haaretz

"At once theoretically sophisticated and richly imaginative, Steinberg’s ’constellating’ of Jewishness and music could well have a substantial impact on discussions of Central European Jewish culture, where, as he emphasizes, there is a pressing need for new conceptual life."

Paul Reitter | TLS

"Polemics thrive on disagreement, and Judaism Musical and Unmusical provides plenty to argue about. That is one of its strengths, along with its wide reach and its broad culture. Although it is made up of essays that were written for different occasions, it is a coherent book. It does not ask ’What is a Jew?’ . . . Instead it discusses something by far more interesting: What it means to be a Jew, no matter how wordly one might be."

David Kaufmann | Forward

"The book’s potency lies in its overall resistance to classification and in challenging exiosting classifications; it plays with the inherent ambiguities that lie within the concepts of music and Judentum."

Tina Fruehauf | MJOR

Table of Contents

List of illustrations

1    The House and the World: On Jewish Experience and the Critique of Identity
2    The Family Romances of Sigmund Freud
3    Broken Vessels: Aestheticism and Modernity in Henry James and Walter Benjamin
4    Walter Benjamin and Eduard Fuchs: The Collector as Allegorist
5    Charlotte Salomon: History, Memory, Modernism
6    Arnaldo Momigliano and the Facts
7    Leonard Bernstein in Vienna
8    Grounds Zero: History, Memory, and the New Sacredness in Berlin and Beyond

Of Jews, Music, and Scholarship

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