Moses Hess and Modern Jewish Identity

Moses Hess and Modern Jewish Identity

Ken Koltun-Fromm
Distribution: World
Publication date: 7/10/2001
ISBN: 978-0-253-10856-2
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Winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award for Philosophy and Thought
"Koltun-Fromm’s reading of Hess is of crucial import for those who study the construction of self in the modern world as well as for those who are concerned with Hess and his contributions to modern thought. . . . a reading of Hess that is subtle, judicious, insightful, and well supported." —David Ellenson

Moses Hess, a fascinating 19th-century German Jewish intellectual figure, was at times religious and secular, traditional and modern, practical and theoretical, socialist and nationalist. Ken Koltun-Fromm’s radical reinterpretation of his writings shows Hess as a Jew struggling with the meaning of conflicting commitments and impulses. Modern readers will realize that in Hess’s life, as in their own, these commitments remain fragmented and torn. As contemporary Jews negotiate multiple, often contradictory allegiances in the modern world, Koltun-Fromm argues that Hess’s struggle to unite conflicting traditions and frameworks of meaning offers intellectual and practical resources to re-examine the dilemmas of modern Jewish identity. Adopting Charles Taylor’s philosophical theory of the self to uncover Hess’s various commitments, Koltun-Fromm demonstrates that Hess offers a rich, textured, though deeply conflicted and torn account of the modern Jew. This groundbreaking study in conceptions of identity in modern Jewish texts is a vital contribution to the diverse fields of Jewish intellectual history, philosophy, Zionism, and religious studies.

Jewish Literature and Culture—Alvin H. Rosenfeld, editor
Published with the generous support of the Koret Foundation

Author Bio

Ken Koltun-Fromm is Assistant Professor of Religion at Haverford College. He publishes in the field of modern Jewish thought and German studies.

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Table of Contents


1. Hess and Modern Jewish Identity

Hess and Modern Jewish Identity

Categories of Modern Identity

Outline of Chapters

2. Conceptions of Self and Identity in Hess’s Early Works and Rome and Jerusalem

Rome and Jerusalem as Socialist and Zionist Manifesto

Conceptions of Self and Identity in Hess’s Socialist and Scientific Works

Conceptions of Self and Identity in Rome and Jerusalem

3. Hess’s "Return" to Judaism and Narrative Identity

Discontinuity and Resolution in Hess’s "Return" to Judaism

The Reading of Hess’s "Return" as Resolution

Narrative Identity

4. Inescapable Frameworks: Emotions, Race, and the Rhetoric of Jewish Identity

Evocative Language in Rome and Jerusalem

Spinoza as Model for Passionate Philosophy

Hess’s Racial Theory

Inescapable Frameworks

5. Traditions and Scars: Hess’s Critique of Reform and Orthodox Judaism

Identity and Difference: Hess’s Critique of Bildung and Jewish Reform

Traditions: Race and Scars

Identity and Creativity: Hess’s Critique of Jewish Orthodoxy

6.Innocence and Experience in Rome and Jerusalem