Jewish Chronotopes: Sites of Memory in the Autobiographies of Gershom Scholem and Walter Benjamin Open Access

Weisberger, Abigail Elena (2014)

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Eminent German-Jewish scholars Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) and Gershom Scholem (1897-1982) contributed in key ways to Weimar intellectual culture and had a well-documented friendship. Although they grew up in Berlin during the same period, their autobiographies yield almost opposing narrative structures. Through a collection of vignettes, Benjamin's Berlin Childhood around 1900 (1938) focuses on sensory objects and places as seen from the perspective of a child. In contrast, Scholem's From Berlin to Jerusalem (1977) depicts the trajectory of his life in a straightforward narrative: namely, his journey from the Berlin of his youth to his adult life in Jerusalem. These two thinkers exemplify not just divergent views on Judaism in early twentieth-century Germany, but also the different usages of autobiography to express Jewish identity. Using Berlin Childhood and From Berlin to Jerusalem as a case study for Jewish autobiographical literature, I examine the authors' Jewish self-image through the concepts of space and time. These autobiographies are a prism through which one can understand Jewish reactions to and conceptualizations of their own marginality in a period of rupture.

Table of Contents

Introduction / 1

Chapter I: Jewish Spaces of Community and Marginality in Berlin / 6

A. Jewish Spaces in the Public Sphere

B. Private Jewish Spaces: Home and Community

Chapter II: Time-Space Structures in Jewish Autobiography / 21

A. Bakhtinian Chronotope and Genre

B. Intersections of Space and Time in Benjaminian Aesthetic Theory

C. Chronotopes of Nostalgia and Otherness

Chapter III: Jewish Time and Autobiographical Narrative / 36

A. The Dialectic of Past and Future in Jewish Messianism and Social Emancipation

B. Destruction and Redemption in the Kafka Correspondence

C. Messianic Time in Autobiography

Closing Remarks / 53

Bibliography / 58

Notes / 60

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