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A History of European LiteratureThe West and the World from Antiquity to the Present$
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Walter Cohen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732679

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732679.001.0001

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Jewishness and Modernist Fiction

Jewishness and Modernist Fiction

(p.406) 14 Jewishness and Modernist Fiction
A History of European Literature

Walter Cohen

Oxford University Press

Long internal to Europe, Jews are nevertheless for centuries considered a marginal group. This begins to change in the Enlightenment. But only with modernism, and then only in prose fiction, do Jews and Jewishness come to occupy a central position—a position difficult to perceive in retrospect owing to the intervening Nazi years and to the practice of defining Jewishness in unduly restrictive terms. Modernist fiction responds to the collapse of shared values with an attenuation of plot yoked to a structurally autobiographical recreation of ordinary social life, including the lives of people very different from the author (Proust, Joyce, Kafka). This moment proves congenial to the Jewish writer, less exclusively attached to the nation than are many contemporary authors. Jewish modernist fiction thus marks the transition from the literature of Europe and the West to the category of world literature

Keywords:   Jewishness, Modernism, prose fiction, Proust, Kafka, Joyce

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