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Orientalism and the Figure of the Jew$
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Jeffrey S. Librett

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823262915

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823262915.001.0001

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Dialectical Development or Partial Construction?:

Dialectical Development or Partial Construction?:

Martin Buber and Franz Kafka

(p.209) Chapter 7 Dialectical Development or Partial Construction?
Orientalism and the Figure of the Jew

Jeffrey S. Librett

Fordham University Press

In this chapter and the next, the book examines several twentieth century modernist responses to nineteenth century historicist Orientalism. This chapter analyzes Martin Buber’s “The Spirit of the Orient and Judaism” and Franz Kafka’s “The Great Wall of China.” Buber’s text retains crucial methodological elements of Hegel’s typological dialectics but reverses and displaces its contents. Here, the Jews appear as the “Aufhebung” (or Hegelian synthesis) of East and West. Kafka’s text more radically questions dialectical thinking and indeed deconstructs the inside-outside opposition, specifically as applied to cultural-national entities such as the Chinese, the Jewish, and so on. Through the figure of building “without context” or “noncoherently”—not zusammenhängend—Kafka questions the entire tradition of historicist essentialism on the level of its most basic enabling conceptual conditions.

Keywords:   Martin Buber, Franz Kafka, Judaism, China, context, ego, border, dialectics, crisis of historicism, Orient

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