This essay challenges the standard view of the relations between two major Jewish corpora: German and Yiddish–East European culture and literature. In that view the writings of German Jews are steeped in either disdain for or romantic fantasies about East European Jews. Yiddish writers tend, in turn, to depict mistreatment, even victimization by German Jews while sometimes implying a sense of superiority to them. Even where critics do acknowledge the admiration of Yiddish writers for German writers, Jewish or otherwise, these connections are rarely examined in detail. This essay shows how both German Jewish and Yiddish writers sought at times to overcome stereotyping while drawing productively on each other's cultural or specifically literary expression. In developing the argument, this essay also offers a case study that responds to Rita Felski's recent critique of the “hermeneutics of suspicion” and her call for a more positive approach to literary analysis. The counterthesis about the interaction between German Jewish and Yiddish writers stresses the productive aspects of translation and transmission. Such a new approach, if not wholly free from the “hermeneutics of suspicion,” may provide an alternative to it.
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Jeffrey A. Grossman; The Yiddish-German Connection: New Directions. Poetics Today 1 June 2015; 36 (1-2): 59–110. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2879847
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