French and Jewish

Culture and the Politics of Identity in Early Twentieth-Century France

By Nadia Malinovich

Now in paperback, this study of Jewish cultural innovation in early twentieth-century France highlights the complexity and ambivalence of Jewish identity and self-definition in the modern world. Following the Dreyfus affair, French Jews increasingly began to question how Jewishness should be defined in a society where Jews enjoyed full political equality. Writers who had previously not given voice to their Jewish origins began to explore biblical themes, traditional Jewish folklore, and issues of identity and assimilation. A plethora of new journals focusing on Jewish religion, history, and culture came into being, as did a multitude of associations - literary societies, youth groups, religious organizations - that emphasized Jewish distinctiveness. Author Nadia Malinovich explores this blossoming of Jewish cultural life in France, often described by contemporaries as a Jewish 'renaissance' or 'awakening.' Describing and analyzing the emergence of new forms of Jewish associational life, Malinovich shows that the interface between the various groups was as important as the differences between them: it was the process of debate and dialogue that infused new energy into French Jewish identity and culture. Malinovich similarly analyzes the Jewish press and literature to develop a typology of themes, providing a panoramic view of how Jewish identity and culture were discussed and debated among Jews and non-Jews of varying ideological, cultural, and political orientations. Her analysis also provides a vantage point from which to explore the complex ways in which French national identity was re-negotiated in the early twentieth century. During this period, French Jews in effect reshaped the category of Frenchness itself, and in so doing created new possibilities for being both French and Jewish. This is a stimulating and original book that makes a major contribution to our understanding of modern Jewish history, as well as to the history of the Jews in France and to the larger discourse about Jewish identities in the modern world. 'Well written, thoroughly researched, and engaging....It is the first systematic consideration of what the renaissance of French Jewish culture actually was, and the combination of social history and cultural studies is deftly handled; this is not just a study of elites and their ideas.' Paula E. Hyman, Yale U. 'An important contribution....In terms of research Malinovich has brought together a large body of material and displays impressive, intimate knowledge of both literary and organizational sources. She also does an admirable job of tying these sources to the larger context of Jewish and French history....Nadia Malinovich has provided vital information to scholars wishing to trace the development and boundaries of Jewish identity in France. By illuminating a period that has escaped recent scholarly attention, she enhances our ability to understand the broader contours of French Jewish Society.' Jeffrey Haus, H-French.

292 pages

Publication Date: 1/1/2012
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9781906764258