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The Figural JewPolitics and Identity in Postwar French Thought$
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Sarah Hammerschlag

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226315119

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226315133.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
The Figural Jew
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226315133.003.0001

In French history, the figure of the Jew has had an unstable meaning. From signifying an entrenched particularism in the eighteenth century, it represented the negative image of the Enlightenment ideal as a figure in the rhetoric of the French Revolution, and then functioned as a metonym for abstract universalism by the time of the 1789 revolution's centennial. One hundred years later, the Catholic Right's vocal leaders identified the cosmopolitan Jew as the secret victor of the French Revolution. The Jew was portrayed as the wandering nomad, the foreigner with no roots in France or anywhere else. As French ideals shifted, the negative characteristics associated with the Jew also changed. After World War II, the figural Jew gained a positive moral and political significance. This book explores the development of the trope of the Jew as a figure for the uprooted, focusing on the works of a number of France's most influential postwar thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, and Jacques Derrida.

Keywords:   France, Jean-Paul Sartre, Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, French Revolution, wandering nomad, figural Jew

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