The Jewish Decadence: Jews and the Aesthetics of Modernity
by Jonathan Freedman
University of Chicago Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-0-226-58092-0 | Paper: 978-0-226-58108-8 | eISBN: 978-0-226-58111-8

As Jewish writers, artists, and intellectuals made their way into Western European and Anglo-American cultural centers, they encountered a society obsessed with decadence. An avant-garde movement characterized by self-consciously artificial art and literature, philosophic pessimism, and an interest in nonnormative sexualities, decadence was also a smear, whereby Jews were viewed as the source of social and cultural decline. In The Jewish Decadence, Jonathan Freedman argues that Jewish engagement with decadence played a major role in the emergence of modernism and the making of Jewish culture from the 1870s to the present.
The first to tell this sweeping story, Freedman demonstrates the centrality of decadence to the aesthetics of modernity and its inextricability from Jewishness. Freedman recounts a series of diverse and surprising episodes that he insists do not belong solely to the past, but instead reveal that the identification of Jewishness with decadence persists today.

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