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Is Theory Good for the Jews?French Thought and the Challenge of the New Antisemitism$
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Bruno Chaouat

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781781383346

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781383346.001.0001

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Introduction: Is Theory Good for the Jews?

Introduction: Is Theory Good for the Jews?

(p.1) Introduction: Is Theory Good for the Jews?
Is Theory Good for the Jews?

Bruno Chaouat

Liverpool University Press

This work is the result of a decade of researching and writing about the correlation between the postmodern approach to the Holocaust, the place of Jews in deconstruction and literary theory (the Jew as trope or figure), the fallout of the Arab-Israeli conflict in France, and the resurgence of antisemitism. So far, no book has aimed at tracing the metaphysical, literary, and esthetic roots of French responses to this new manifestation of antisemitism. I do not advocate a clear-cut division between “new” and “old” antisemitism, or even a radical paradigm shift. Instead, I wish to bring into focus the mutual shaping of past and present in our understanding of responses to the resurgence of antisemitism. My contention is that French reactions even to the most lethal incarnations of antisemitism can only be understood if we consider (a) the French construction of the “figural Jew” and the deconstruction of the empirical (political and historical) Jew; (b) the French way of memorializing, estheticizing, and idealizing the Holocaust within the last forty-five years; (c) France's vexed relation to its colonial past; and (d) the modernist French aesthetic grounded in the celebration of anomie and transgression.

Keywords:   New antisemitism, Holocaust memory, Modernist Aesthetic and transgression, Figural Jew

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