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Ezra Engelsberg MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: European History, Identity, Music & Theatre History

Cohort/Start PhD: 2021-2022

On Stage, in the World: Identity and Community in Jewish-German Theatre, 1800-1871

University of Amsterdam/Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam

Promotor(es): Prof. Dr. I.E. Zwiep & Prof. Dr. A.J.J. Nijhuis

The historiography of German-Jewish belles-lettres in the earlier 19th century has been largely overshadowed by the racial debate in the wake of the Reichsgründung in 1871. The whole of the century is thus perceived anachronistically as the onset of a process that would culminate in the horrors of WWII. By trying to integrate the forgotten world of German-Jewish theatre from 1800 to 1871, an inclusive literary domain expressing Jewish responses to contemporaneous notions of Jewish/alien versus Greek/German, this research retraces early testimonies of the German-Jewish search for new identities and challenges the mutually exclusive character of these binary categories and the lachrymose perception of the German-Jewish 19th century.

In contrast to contemporaneous Jewish journalism, novels and the scientific exponents of the Wissenschaft des Judentums, theatrical texts do not seem to pursue a single uniform program of Jewish integration, rehabilitation or apologetics. This pluriformity makes them especially relevant for the aims of this research. These aims include: 1) to revisit the German-Jewish construction and integration of ‘traditional’ identity and German bourgeois habitus from 1800 onwards through the lens of a forgotten genre; 2) to revise and extend German-Jewish literary historiography of the 19th century beyond the history connected to racial antisemitism in the last three decades of the century; 3) to advance the academic understanding of contemporaneously dominant binary oppositions derived from the antithesis of ancient Greece versus the Semitic Old Testament as a guiding  German cultural principle.