Monsters and Jewish Modernity
What is a monster? How does it come into being? Why do monsters capture modern imagination and at what historical junctions do they tend to reappear? From the Golem to Frankenstein, monsters have often figured the anxieties, fantasies, and collective distress of the societies from which they hail. Jewish modernity in particular saw the rapid reproduction of monstrous figures as metaphors for the ambivalent state of European Jews vis-à-vis their surrounding societies. Whether an outcast, a dangerous force from within or a defender against external persecutions, monsters totter on the border between imagination and destruction, conveying at once a promise and a threat. This course explores monstrosity as a critical framework through which we may reflect on such issues as belonging, gender, race, abnormality and hybridity. We shall consider the monstrous as it relates to “Jewish questions”, but also as a cultural figure with a life of its own, who recurs across times, languages, and cultures, embodying different states of outsiderness and exception.