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Distributed for Brandeis University Press

Modern French Jewish Thought

Writings on Religion and Politics

Distributed for Brandeis University Press

Modern French Jewish Thought

Writings on Religion and Politics

“Modern Jewish thought” is often defined as a German affair, with interventions from Eastern European, American, and Israeli philosophers. The story of France’s development of its own schools of thought has not been substantially treated outside the French milieu. This anthology of modern French Jewish writing offers the first look at how this significant and diverse body of work developed within the historical and intellectual contexts of France and Europe. Translated into English, these documents speak to two critical axes—the first between Jewish universalism and particularism, and the second between the identification and disidentification of French Jews with France as a nation. Offering key works from Simone Weil, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Emmanuel Levinas, Albert Memmi, Hélène Cixous, Jacques Derrida, and many others, this volume is organized in roughly chronological order, to highlight the connections linking religion, politics, and history, as they coalesce around a Judaism that is unique to France.

304 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2018

Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought

Philosophy: General Philosophy

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"In this anthology, Sarah Hammerschlag offers readers a dive into the deep reservoir of modern French Jewish thought. Her brilliantly curated book is presented in roughly chronological order, exploring Jewish philosophy and theology as a response to shifting contexts.... a fabulously rendered anthology that can launch readers into the brilliance of modern French Jewish thought, where a captivating universe of new thinkers remains to be discovered for many English readers, students, and more seasoned scholars alike."


"This is a wide-ranging, roughly chronological anthology, whose historical and disciplinary breadth, thorough and thoughtful introduction, and even-handed prefaces to its selections make it well suited to pedagogical purposes."

French Studies

"Until now, few resources readily available to scholars and students of contemporary French and Francophone studies have provided sufficient religious, political, or historical context to frame the critical questions posed at these defining moments in the relationship between France’s Jewish population and the French state. Sarah Hammerschlag’s masterfully edited anthology addresses this need by giving voice to French Jewish thinkers—from Simone Weil, Emmanuel Levinas, Sarah Kofman, and Albert Memmi to Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar, Alain Finkielkraut, Hélène Cixous, and Jacques Derrida, among others—in their efforts to formulate and reformulate their beliefs, philosophies, and positions at major moments of crisis and change....Beyond its rich content, the strengths of this anthology are multiple. The clear, compelling introduction to the volume as a whole, to each thematic section, and to the authors’ lives, works, and theories make the essays accessible even for non-specialists. Moreover, the fluid translations are particularly noteworthy in their comprehensible rendering of the writings of stylistically different, highly complex philosophers."

French Review

“This is much more than an anthology. Brilliantly composed and introduced by one of the most learned and astute scholars in the field, it is a treasure trove of insights into contemporary debates about identity and belonging, particularism and universality, and the intertwined fates of politics and religion.”

Vivian Liska, University of Antwerp

"In short, modern French Jewish thought is largely unknown in the United States. A recent anthology seeks to bring the richness of these writers to an American audience, Sarah Hammerschlag’s Modern French Jewish Thought: Writings on Religion and Politics...The volume...was one of my favorite Jewish books of 2018 with its twenty-four well-chosen texts to illustrate the length of French Jewish thought."

Alan Brill

"Extraordinary memoirs...there is much to reward the reader."

Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents

Foreword • Introduction • I. THE ISRAELITE OF THE REPUBLIC • Joseph Salvador, The People • James Darmesteter, Preface, The Prophets of Israel • Zadoc Kahn, Speech on the acceptance of his position as chief rabbi of France • Bernard Lazare, Judaism’s Conception of the Social and the Jewish People; Jewish Capitalism and Democracy • André Spire, Preface (1959) to Jewish Poems; Prologue (1919) to Jewish Poems; Jewish Dreams • Sylvain Lévi, Alliance israélite universelle • Edmond Fleg, Why I Am a Jew • II. THE CATACLYSM AND THE AFTERMATH • Simone Weil, What Is a Jew? • Robert Gamzon, Tivliout: Harmony • Jacob Gordin, The Galuth • Emmanuel Levinas, The Jewish Experience of the Prisoner • Vladimir Jankélévitch, Judaism, an “Internal Problem” • Sarah Kofman, Smothered Words • III. UNIVERSAL AND PARTICULAR: THE JEW AND THE POLITICAL REALM • Albert Memmi, The Jew, the Nation, and History • Richard Marienstras, The Jews of the Diaspora, or the Vocation of a Minority • André Neher, The Jewish Dimension of Space: Zionism • Henri Atlan, Jerusalem: The Terrestrial, the Celestial • Shmuel Trigano, Klal Israel: The Totality minus One • IV. IDENTIFICATION, DISIDENTIFICATION • Jacqueline Mesnil-Amar, The Lost Children of Judaism • Léon Ashkénazi, Tradition and Modernity • Alain Finkielkraut, From the Novelesque to Memory • Hélène Cixous, Albums and Legends; The Dawn of Phallocentrism • Jacques Derrida, Avowing—the Impossible: “Returns,” Repentance, and Reconciliation, a Lesson • Stéphane Mosès, Normative Modernity and Critical Modernity • Acknowledgments • Suggestions for Further Reading • Index

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