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Volume 90, Number 2, Summer 1998 Table of Contents

Texts and Documents

Elisabeth Borchers
Drei neue Gedichte
Several years ago, Elisabeth Borchers’s untitled poem “Als die Eule” appeared in Monatshefte (cf. 86 [1994] 151).Borchers, who was born in Homburg (Niederrhein) in 1926, has published widely over the past decades, both volumes of poetry and narrative prose, as well as radio plays and books for children; also, she is the recipient of many prizes and awards. Since 1971, Borchers has lived in Frankfurt am Main, working as an influential publisher’s reader for Insel and Suhrkamp. Her “Drei neue Gedichte” will be included in a new collection of her poetry which is forthcoming. (RG) (In German)


Will Hasty
Tristan and Isolde, the Consummate Insiders: Relations of Love and Power in Gottfried von Straßburg’s Tristan
Despite general recognition of its complexity, Gottfried von Straßburg’s early thirteenth-century verse romance Tristan has tended to be interpreted according to a fairly simple oppositional structure that opposes love, as personified by the protagonists Tristan and Isolde, to power, which is represented by the court society of King Marke. This article proposes a differing understanding of Gottfried’s poem that does not ultimately rest on identity, but rather on a dynamic and open-ended relationship including moments of conflict, collaboration, and sameness. The variegated and dynamic relationship suggested by Gottfried’s aesthetically constructive fusion of the interests of love and power are exemplified by a consideration of key episodes showing that although the lovers are indeed occasionally outsiders, they are also—perhaps in a more significant way—the quintessential insiders. (WH)


Stephen Wailes
The Ambivalence of Der Stricker’s “Der Pfaffe Amis”
By consistently offering his audience a choice—the text as literature of entertainment without a moral message, or as a serious treatment of the problem of money and cupidity—the narrator of “Der Pfaffe Amis” aligns it with popular medieval genres that are based on conflicting viewpoints and divided opinions (the debate, the tenso, the jeu-parti). The narrator’s shifting attitude toward his tale arises in one issue: is the priest to be condemned because he lies to obtain money (his liegen triegen) or condoned because he spends this money on hospitality (his milte)? The narrator’s calculated ambivalence, which makes “Amis” a narrative geteiltes spil, is an authorial strategy of entertainment. It also has didactic force because the problem of liegen triegen is advanced more effectively than is the theme of milte. (SLW)


Joseph M. Sullivan
Brother Hermann’s Iolande: A Tale of Ideal Female Spirituality
Brother Hermann’s Das Leben der Gräfin Iolande von Vianden, a Middle High German verse biography from the last decade of the thirteenth century, presents the struggle of the young German noblewoman Yolanda of Vianden (1231–1283) to become a Dominican nun. This study analyzes several of the most central events that Hermann chooses to depict from his heroine’s life and demonstrates how he relies upon the tradition of medieval hagiography both to select and to represent those events. Moreover, this article proposes the audience of the biography to be the Sisters of Yolanda’s home convent of Marienthal, where the poet intended the representation of their recently deceased abbess, Yolanda, to provide the nuns a model of ideal female spirituality suitable for their emulation. (JMS)


Yiddish Articles

Bruce Mitchell


Joshua Shanes
Yiddish and Jewish Diaspora Nationalism
Yiddish played a critical role in the development of Jewish nationalist discourse in pre-Holocaust Europe. Simon Dubnow viewed Yiddish as an important tool in strengthening Jewish national unity, and the Jewish socialist Bund became the first political party in Russia to advocate Jewish national autonomy, partially because it needed Yiddish to communicate with the Jewish masses. Later, Yiddish remained central to the Bund's platform, which demanded national cultural, but not political, autonomy. Other nationalists, such as Chaim Zhitlowsky, believed Yiddish the supreme national value and its use the definitive marker of Jewish identity. In Austria-Hungary, language was the critical criteria of national identity. Vienna refused to recognize Yiddish as an umgangssprache and denied autonomy to the Jews. Jewish nationalism in the empire thus centered on the struggle for the recognition of Yiddish as a legitimate language and the attainment of national autonomy for the Jews. Well before the First World War, even the Zionists had committed themselves to this struggle. (JS)


Bruce Mitchell
Yiddish and the Hebrew Revival: A New Look at the Changing Role of Yiddish
Contemporary scholarship often fails to place Yiddish in the proper sociohistorical context when evaluating its present status and prospects for survival as a Jewish vernacular. By analyzing the origins and development of Yiddish in the trilingual context of traditional Ashkenazic Jewry, the historically changing role of Yiddish vis-á-vis Hebrew and other co-territorial languages may be more accurately assessed. Having been largely displaced as a spoken language by a revitalized Hebrew, the contemporary role of Yiddish has been redefined in particular by secular Jews as a literary language studied in an academic environment. Shifting attitudes towards Yiddish both in Israel and the diaspora may help ensure the survival of Yiddish as a spoken language outside of the Ultra-Orthodox community. (BM)


Stacey Meryl Willis
Irrational Discourse: Authority and the Ambivalent Maskil in Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh’s Di Takse and Di Kliatsche
This article examines the intertextual relationship of Abramovitsh’s texts Di Takse (1869) and Di Kliatshe (1873), which reveal a shift in attitude concerning the Haskalah project, specifically in regard to the role of the Russian government. While in Di Takse the government is viewed as a regulating, benevolent force that will stabilize the post-Kahal Jewish communities, Di Kliatshe offers an allegorical representation of the Tsar as Ashmodei, king of the demons. One reason for this drastic change was the 1871 Odessa pogrom which devastated the morale of the Jewish intellectuals. On closer inspection, however, Di Takse reveals an already ambivalent posture towards the Haskalah project in the representation of maskillic heroes who are completely out of touch with the needs of the common Jew. Di Kliatshe’s protagonist is even more ambivalent and degraded, revealing a disintegration of the Haskalah ideal. (SMW)


Christina Baade
Jewzak and Heavy Shtetl: Constructing Ethnic Identity and Asserting Authenticity in the Neo-Klezmer Movement
Klezmer, the instrumental dance music of European and American Yiddish culture, began to be revived in the U.S. during the 1970s. It has grown in popularity through the subsequent decades; its revivalists have continued to invent klezmer history and klezmer authenticity. This article explores the question of how klezmer players and critics use concepts of authenticity and how these notions relate to their understandings of klezmer tradition and Jewish identity. While scholars like Richard Taruskin have debunked the usefulness of the concept of authenticity as a measure by which to determine cultural value, authenticity functions among klezmer players and critics as a flag for points of emotional and ideological investment. Such flags cluster around notions of Jewish identity and the way klezmer performers redefine, contest, and even commodify Jewishness. (CB)


Jerrold M. Sadock
A Vestige of Verb Final Syntax in Yiddish
In Yiddish the verb is positioned at the beginning of its phrase whereas in German it occurs at the end of the phrase, though the finite verb of a main clause occurs early in the sentence. Did Yiddish once have verb-final word order, or is its grammar so solidly Slavic that it never did? This paper presents evidence from a certain pattern of conjunction that is understandable if Yiddish developed from a verb-final language. Yiddish allows a verb phrase consisting of a non-finite verb followed by its object to be conjoined with just another transitive verb, roughly like saying “has dressed himself up and prettied.” In German, with its verbs at the ends of verb phrases, this would come out as a simple conjunction of transitive verbs: “has himself dressed up and prettied.” The grammatical facts thus lead to the conclusion that Yiddish innovated its present word order out of something very like what German preserves. (JMS)


Elaine Gold
Structural Differences: The Yiddish Pluperfect and Future Perfect
The pluperfect, or past in the past, and the future perfect, or past in the future, are superficially similar tenses. Each one refers to an event that occurs before a reference time point that is not the moment of speech. That is, the pluperfect is used to indicate that an event occurred before a reference time in the past, and the future perfect is used for an event that occurs before a reference time in the future. Besides this semantic similarity, the two tenses have a formal similarity in Yiddish: each one includes an invariant nonfinite form of hobn: gehat in the pluperfect and hobn in the future perfect. These elements are invariant in that they are used even when the main verb is normally conjugated with zayn. Despite the semantic and formal similarities of these two constructions, this study proposes that their syntactic structures are very different and that the difference is a consequence of differing syntactic structures in the Yiddish future and past tenses. (EG)


Review Articles

Kathrin M. Bower
Modern “Frauenliteratur” and “Frauenliteraturkritik”


Karlheinz Hasselbach
Thomas (Mann) the Provider


Book Reviews

Books Received