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The First Modern JewSpinoza and the History of an Image$
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Daniel B. Schwartz

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691142913

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691142913.001.0001

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The First Modern Jew

The First Modern Jew

Berthold Auerbach’s Spinoza (1837) and the Beginnings of an Image

(p.55) Chapter 3 The First Modern Jew
The First Modern Jew

Daniel B. Schwartz

Princeton University Press

This chapter skips ahead fifty years from the previous chapter to find the roots of the heroic and prototypical image of Spinoza in the historical fiction of the young Berthold Auerbach (1812–1882), using his engagement with the Amsterdam heretic in the 1830s as a lens for exploring tensions in early Reform Judaism between organic and revolutionary visions of religious change. It contends that his 1837 historical novel, Spinoza, ein historischer Roman (Spinoza, a Historical Novel), when studied against the backdrop of his previous Jewish writings, evinces a very personal—but also very contemporary—tug-of-war between two different visions of Jewish modernity: one more reformist and accommodating of a religious framework for change, the other more uncompromisingly radical.

Keywords:   historical fiction, historical novels, Berthold Auerbach, early Reform Judaism, religious change, Spinoza, reformist Jewish modernity, radical Jewish modernity, Jewish identity

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