Autobiographical Jews: Essays in Jewish Self-Fashioning by Michael Stanislawski

By Michael Stanislawski

Autobiographical Jews examines the character of autobiographical writing via Jews from antiquity to the current, and the ways that such writings can legitimately be used as resources for Jewish heritage. Drawing on present literary conception, which questions the very nature of autobiographical writing and its dating to what we in most cases designate because the fact, and, to a lesser volume, the recent cognitive neurosciences, Michael Stanislawski analyzes a few the most important and complicated autobiographical texts written by way of Jews throughout the ages.

Stanislawski considers The existence via first-century historian Josephus; compares the early glossy autobiographies of Asher of Reichshofen (Book of thoughts) and Glikl of Hameln (Memoirs); analyzes the considerably varied autobiographies of 2 Russian Jewish writers, the Hebrew Enlightenment writer Moshe Leib Lilienblum and the recognized Russian poet Osip Mandelstam; and appears at autobiographies written out of utter depression within the midst and within the wake of worldwide warfare II, Stefan Zweig’s the realm of the previous day and Sarah Kofman’s Rue Ordener, Rue Labat.

These writers’ makes an attempt to painting their deepest and public struggles, anxieties, successes, and screw ups are expressions of a uncomplicated force for selfhood that's either undying and time-bound, common and culturally particular. The problem is to try to resolve the wide awake from the subconscious distortions in those texts and to treat them as artifacts of people’ quests to make feel in their lives, initially for themselves after which, if attainable, for his or her readers.

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Asher’s Hebrew prose, on the other hand, is crisp, clear, almost entirely grammatical—a true rarity in his day—and virtually devoid of the Aramaisms and allusions to Talmudic dicta that were (and still are) the mark of the educated rabbinic elite and render rabbinic prose so unfathomable to outsiders, including native Hebrew speakers. To be sure, biblicisms abound in Asher’s text, but this is not the work of a Bible scholar. Rather, Asher’s prose style seems to accord with the person and curriculum vitae it records: he tells us that he was born in a small town in Alsace in 1598, at the age of six was taught to read Hebrew at home by his father, and then sent to a cheder or two until, at the age of twelve, he began to study the Talmud along with the Tosafot; two years later he set off to Prague to study with the great rabbis of that metropolis, and remained there intermittently—interrupted by the outbreak of the plague and several highway robberies to which he fell victim—until he reached the age of seventeen, when he moved on to a nearby yeshiva where he was awarded the pre-rabbinic title “bakhur” and learned the laws of kosher slaughtering.

Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to engrave with an iron pen the memory of everything that happened to me, good and bad, in order to praise and give thanks for it all, just as we bless the good so we must bless the bad, and I have appended to the end of this book everything that happened to my children, and I shall testify to all both firsthand and with the names of other witnesses to these events, as required by the Law . . 11 37 38 in the culture of the r abbis Thus, in sharp contrast both to Modena and, as we shall see, to Glikl, both of whom claim to have written their memoirs for the sake of their children, Asher’s purpose is at once confessional and historicist: the former provides a crucial counterexample to the oft-stated claim that unlike Christians, Jews did not write confessional autobiographies; the latter runs counter to our expectations about traditional sixteenth-century Jews and their sense of history.

From a more or less accidental combination of impressions. 18 Just a little later, the British psychologist Sir Frederic Bartlett argued, more broadly, that what we recall (as adults as well) is not what we actually experienced, but a reconstruction thereof that is consistent with our current goals and our knowledge of the world. As he put it, “Remembering is not the re-excitation of innumerable fixed, lifeless, and fragmentary forms. ”19 At the time, this view was rejected by most psychologists but has been resurrected in recent decades as most neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists have come to reject the so-called “storage model” of memory, in which everything one learns or experiences is thought to exist somewhere in the mind, whether or not one can access it.

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