By David Nirenberg
A magisterial heritage, starting from antiquity to the current, that unearths anti-Judaism to be a style of inspiration deeply embedded within the Western tradition.
There is a frequent tendency to treat anti-Judaism - no matter if expressed in an off-the-cuff comment or applied via pogrom or extermination crusade - as by some means unprecedented: an unlucky indicator of private prejudice or the stunning end result of an extremist ideology married to power.
But, as David Nirenberg argues during this ground-breaking learn, to restrict anit-Judaism to the margins of our tradition is to be dangerously complacent. Anti-Judaism isn't an irrational closet within the gigantic edifice of Western inspiration, yet really one of many simple instruments with which that edifice was once developed.
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Additional resources for Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition
But as I think of it I really do know why. It is this terrible urge to do something worth while which leads me to regard as wasted every movement that I spend without improving my knowledge or mental power. I live inwardly as though I had but a short time to live and wanted to accomplish something substantial before it was too late. 34 Here again Kaplan refuses the luxury of self-expression in diaries, and craves the status and respect of professional accomplishments. His ambitions lead beyond the journal to build communities and compose great academic works.
I sometimes feel that we don’t have to die to know what death is—in fact, it is then that we don’t know. 75 Driven to write ever more in his diary to prove his existence, Kaplan recognizes he could never do enough. His past will continue to die, even as he writes frantically and often. Kaplan is already dying, as it were, as he is unable to capture fully his own life experiences in his journal writing. The tight link between the absence of diary pages and the feeling of “blankness” tethers his sense of self to the material journal.
This sense of self as a material commodity, one as ephemeral as products in the open market, haunts Kaplan’s diary and his identity as an American Jew. A consuming culture might very well devour the archive and thus render the material self as absent rather than fully present. 4 The ontological pressure to create a permanent thing—what Derrida calls archive fever—haunts Kaplan throughout his life, but nowhere more acutely than here in his journal. Kaplan’s yearning for presence in a material thing exposes how Jewish identity is a performative act in material culture.
Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg