Jewish Difference and the Arts in Vienna

Jewish Difference and the Arts in Vienna

Composing Compassion in Music and Biblical Theater
Caroline A. Kita
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/14/2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-04053-4
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During the mid-19th century, the works of Arthur Schopenhauer and Richard Wagner sparked an impulse toward German cultural renewal and social change that drew on religious myth, metaphysics, and spiritualism. The only problem was that their works were deeply antisemitic and entangled with claims that Jews were incapable of creating compassionate art. By looking at the works of Jewish composers and writers who contributed to a lively and robust biblical theatre in fin de siècle Vienna, Caroline A. Kita shows how they reimagined myths of the Old Testament to offer new aesthetic and ethical views of compassion. These Jewish artists, including Gustav Mahler, Siegfried Lipiner, Richard Beer-Hofmann, Stefan Zweig, and Arnold Schoenberg, reimagined biblical stories through the lens of the modern Jewish subject to plead for justice and compassion toward the Jewish community. By tracing responses to antisemitic discourses of compassion, Kita reflects on the explicitly and increasingly troubled political and social dynamics at the end of the Habsburg Empire.

Author Bio

Caroline A. Kita is Assistant Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Washington University in St. Louis.



Caroline A. Kita offers fascinating discussions of dissonance and cacophony and how they are associated with Jews. She sheds new light on how Viennese Jewish composers used musical and narrative strategies to generate models of compassionate community that recognize and overcome this dissonance to envision new forms of religious understanding for the modern era.


 (Jonathan M. Hess, author of Deborah and Her Sisters)


Caroline A. Kita's book brings to life a circle of writers and composers, with analyses of their major, minor, fragmentary, and forgotten works of Jewish music theater, who lived and wrote in early-20th century Vienna.... unexpected and original.


 (Abigail Gillman, author of Viennese Jewish Modernism)

"Given the variety of artistic works examined, this will surely be useful to the likely graduate students who will use this work."


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Table of Contents



Note on Translation


1. A Case for Compassion: Siegfried Lipiner's Adam

2. Voicing Compassion: Gustav Mahler's Second and Third Symphonies

3. Polyphony as a Poetics of Compassion: Arnold Schoenberg's Die Jakobsleiter

4. Dialogues of Compassion: Richard Beer-Hofmann's Jaákobs Traum

5. Compassion as Communal Song: Stefan Zweig's Jeremias