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Conference The Politics of Jewish Literature and the Making of Post-War Europe

2 feb - 3 feb 2021
Online

This conference aims to investigate the pan-European postwar fascination for Jewish literature and the role it played in articulations of, and promoting a shared political and cultural agenda. Speakers will relate the widespread interest for Jewish writers and their work to patterns of cultural and political regeneration in postwar Europe. The conference will kick off with an interview (in Dutch) with writer Arnon Grunberg on 28 January in SPUI25, which will be available with English subtitles on 1 February.

Jewish literature — by which we understand all literature that is perceived or labeled as Jewish by critics, readers, publishers and/or authors — has struck a powerful chord in postwar European culture. Its unprecedented popularity can be discerned in the interest in authors whose work is labeled as Jewish within various European countries, but also in the popularity of particular authors throughout the continent (including also the European wide admiration of American Jewish and Israeli literature).

As an umbrella term, Jewish literature in the postwar era covers a wealth of topics crucial to the re-imagining of a cultural, post-Holocaust Europe. These topics range from testimonial literature about the Holocaust experience (e.g. Jean Améry, Tadeusz Borowski, Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, G.L. Durlacher, Natalia Ginzburg, Imre Kertész, Aleksandar Tišma), groundbreaking inventions in the art of the novel (Danilo Kiš, Georges Perec) to literature ‘documenting’ Jewish life, be it of the shtetl (e.g. Isaac Bashevis Singer, Eva Hoffman), of ultraorthodox societies (e.g. Chaim Potok) or exploring modern Jewish identity (e.g. Philip Roth, Nathan Englander, Robert Menasse, David Bezmozgis), the Zionist project (e.g. Amos Oz and David Grossman) and the unrelenting interest for and re-canonization of prewar authors (Kafka, Benjamin, Zweig, Josef Roth, Bruno Schulz).

The notion of Jewish literature, in short, establishes new transnational connections in a fragmented post-war Europe, across geographical borders (transatlantic and transmediterranean, and east-west during the Cold War), but also across borders of time, reconnecting Europe to a past that has been destroyed. Today, as we witness fundamental transformations in Holocaust remembrance alongside the rise of new tensions and divisions, it is time to assess the nature, functionality, and limits of this European cultural paradigm.

Because of the online character of the conference, the sessions will be wholly devoted to discussion amongst the panelists and therefore not consist of the reading out of papers. The discussions will be based on the panelists research projects and expertise, on which abstracts will be distributed in advance

Programme

28 January
16:00 – 17:30   Interview with Arnon Grunberg (in Dutch). Check the website of SPUI25 for more information and registration.

2 February
12:30 -14:00    Paul Celan and the regeneration of postwar Europe and the memory of the Holocaust – Panelists: Paul Sars (Radboud University), Ton Naaijkens (Utrecht University) and Andreas Kilcher (ETH Zürich)

14:30-15:30    Kafka, Zweig, Anna Seghers and the postwar European renaissance of prewar German – Jewish Literature Panelists: Nicole Colin (University of Amsterdam), Vivian Liska (University of Antwerp)  and Marleen Rensen (University of Amsterdam)

16:00-17:00    Contemporary Jewish literature on Jewish Identity in the Netherlands and France – Panelists: Remco Ensel (Radboud University), Yra van Dijk (Leiden University) and Yolande Jansen(University of Amsterdam)

3 February
12:30-14:00    Dialogue and Conflict: The European appeal of Israeli literature – Panelists: Yaniv Hagbi (University of Amsterdam) , Hilde Pach,(translator of Israeli literature to Dutch) and  Anat Feinberg  (University of Pennsylvania)

14:30-15-30    American Jewish literature and Europe’s transatlantic imaginaries of jewishness – Panelists:  Andrew Gross (author), Michael Kimmage (Catholic University of America, Washington D.C) and George Blaustein (University of Amsterdam)

16:00-17:00    Eastern European Jewish literature – Panelists: Ewa Stanczyk (University of Amsterdam), Gabor Schein (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Guido Snel (University of Amsterdam)

Conference conveners

  • dr. Guido Snel (senior lecturer European Studies, UvA, ARTES, Amsterdam school for Regional and Transnational Studies)
  • Prof. dr. Ton Nijhuis (department chairman Political Science/ Germany Studies,  director Duitsland Institute, Amsterdam)
  • Dr. David Wertheim (director Menasseh ben Israel Institute for Jewish Studies)
  • Prof. dr. Irene Zwiep (Amsterdam School of Historical Studies, director Amsterdam Institute of Humanities Research)

This is an ACES Conference is organized with the support of the Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies (ARTES) and in collaboration with the Menasseh ben Israel Institute

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