Jewish Difference and the Arts in Vienna

Composing Compassion in Music and Biblical Theater

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Caroline A. Kita
German Jewish Cultures
  • Bloomington, IN: 
    Indiana University Press
    , February
     274 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


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.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

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


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