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Die Rhetorik der Degeneration in der antisemitischen Literatur Das Bild des ,,entarteten“ jüdischen Künstlers

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image of Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte

This essay analyses the specific rhetoric of degeneration which was observable in the antisemitic polemic discourse of the last decades of 19th century. It provides an overview of the representation of Jewish art und artists as it took shape in the antisemitic literature of the Wilhelminian epoch. The growing emphasis placed by psychiatrists and racial theorists on the pathologies of the ,,Jewish race“, such as hysteria or degeneration, resulted in the tendency to pathologize Jewish art and artists, which were deemed responsible for the alleged decline of German culture. Mere aesthetic categories underwent a process of reduction and ideologization and were finally used for defamatory purposes, as shown in the case of the antisemitic denigration of Heinrich Heine. In order to demonstrate this, the analysis outlines the strict dichotomic logic of these argumentations, as the definition and consolidation of an ideal German essence was usually based on the construction of a degenerated Jewish identity.


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