Is Theory Good for the Jews?

BookIs Theory Good for the Jews?

Is Theory Good for the Jews?

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 43


December 16th, 2016

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Is Theory Good for the Jews? is the first attempt at exploring the cultural, intellectual, literary, and ideological roots of French engagement with the global and local upsurge of antisemitism in the 21st century. It is also the first attempt at analyzing the French responses to this new crisis. Chaouat endeavors to understand phenomena of repression, distortion, perversion, or outright denial, within the specific context of French intellectual and cultural history. By looking back to the 1960s and the emergence of a theoretical discourse on trauma, victims and suffering, the Holocaust and the Jews in literature, philosophy, and literary theory, he offer the first in-depth exploration of the cultural roots of French responses to the new antisemitism. Engaging with the work of major thinkers such as Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Derrida, and Jean-François Lyotard, Is Theory Good for the Jews? is an essential texts for scholars of contemporary French and contemporary Jewish Studies.


'The reader will be fascinated by the deftness with which Chaouat triangulates such opppositions as Sephardic/Ashkenazi, Israélite/Juif, Jew of the flesh/Jew of the spirit, infinitely expanding Europe/infinitely expanding Jihad. This is a remarkable book. '
Professor Jeffrey Mehlman, Boston University

'In this startlingly lucid book, Bruno Chaouat asks why so many of the important theorists of our time, from Alain Badiou to Judith Butler, have failed to confront the problem of the 'new antisemitism.' A must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of contemporary politics and critical theory.'
Maurice Samuels, Yale University

'It is a final, telling indictment of Theory that Chaouat’s critique of it derives more political and moral insight from his detours into novels by Philip Roth, Boualem Sansal, and Michel Houellebecq than from any theoretical text he cites. One might have wished that Theory were today solely a matter of 1980s trivia, at most an exercise in period nostalgia like the television show Stranger Things, albeit scarier and less entertaining. Alas, as Chaouat’s book shows, it is still very much with us.'
Michael Weingrad, Jewish Review of Books

'Bruno Chaouat’s Is Theory Good for the Jews? is well-written, well-researched, and deeply felt. Chaouat is an established scholar and Professor at the University of Minnesota whose work is at the intersection of French literature and thought and Holocaust and Jewish Studies.'
Brett Ashley Kaplan, University of Illinois, H-France Review

About The Author

Bruno Chaouat is Professor of French at the University of Minnesota

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Prologue: A Farewell to Theory11
Introduction: Is Theory Good for the Jews?27
1 Specters of Heidegger53
2 The Moralistic Turn: Radical Social Critique, Literary Terror, and Antisemitism after Toulouse97
3 Dangerous Parallels: The Holocaust, the Colonial Turn, and the New Antisemitism143
4 Theory's Operation Shylock190
Part I: Antisemitism Denial195
Intermezzo: Have French Jews Turned to the Right?218
Part II: Jew-Splitting in Judith Butler's Parting Ways232
Postscript: Theorizing Antisemitic Laughter249
Envoy: Adieu to France?265
Index Nominium274