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Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification$
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Neil Levi

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255061

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255061.001.0001

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Images of the Bilderverbot

Images of the Bilderverbot

Adorno, Antisemitism, and the Enemies of Modernism

(p.139) Five Images of the Bilderverbot
Modernist Form and the Myth of Jewification

Neil Levi

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines a central motif in Frankfurt School theorist Theodor W. Adorno's postwar, post-Holocaust modernism: his commitment to the biblical Second Commandment's prohibition of images. Against the received idea that Adorno's commitment to the prohibition represents his identification with some kind of Jewish identity, it is argued that Adorno invokes the prohibition precisely to prevent such identitarian thinking. The prohibition might connect the Jews and modernism, but it neither makes modernism Jewish nor Jews modernists. What it does clearly make them, in Adorno's eyes, is subject to unintended, unwanted, but predictable forms of projection and misinterpretation. Where much of French postwar thought wants simply to reverse the valences and fantasies of the recent past, Adorno's reflections on the projective reaction to the Second Commandment show that he seeks instead, via an inoculatory repetition of those valences and fantasies, to confront and work through them.

Keywords:   Theodor W. Adorno, modernism, Second Commandment, Jewish identity, Jews

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