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Bestiarium JudaicumUnnatural Histories of the Jews$
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Jay Geller

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780823275595

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823275595.001.0001

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Italian Lizards and Literary Politics I

Italian Lizards and Literary Politics I

Carrying the Torch and Getting Singed

Chapter:
(p.139) Chapter 5 Italian Lizards and Literary Politics I
Source:
Bestiarium Judaicum
Author(s):

Jay Geller

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823275595.003.0006

This chapter undertakes a philology-inspired genealogy of Kafka’s invocation of an exemplary lizard on an Italian footpath in his critique of Max Brod’s novel The Jewesses, wherein Kafka remarks upon its failure to counter the everyday practice of identifying Jewish individuals by the undifferentiated collective singular of “the Jew.” Against assumptions about allegedly common identifications of Jews and lizards and consequent allegations of Kafka’s abjection of Judentum, as in Judith Butler’s cavalier tossing of Kafka’s “lizard” into the pickle barrel of contemporary identity politics and the question of Israel-Palestine, this chapter first situates Kafka’s invocation within his actual encounters with lizards in Italy. It then constellates contemporary ressentiment-laden literary politics and Jewish-Gentile relations through the allusive mediations of Brod’s editing of Kafka’s diary and of Karl Kraus and his vicious denunciation of “Heine and the Consequences.” It then turns to two other possible influences on Kafka’s figuration: Goethe’s encounters with lizards during his Italian Journey and Heine’s in the opening chapters of The City of Lucca in his Travel Pictures. Combining allusions to Eduard Gans and Benedict Spinoza with various physical, genealogical, and mental traits Heine’s construction of the lizards may well be, as the Jew-as-Animal, articulating the Jewish animot.

Keywords:   Max Brod, Judith Butler, The City of Lucca, exemplarity, Heinrich Heine, “Heine and the Consequences”, lizards, Franz Kafka, Karl Kraus, philology

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