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The Society of Savage Jews: The Politics of Jewish Primitivism

March 22, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm EDT


Samuel J. Spinner

The unlikely poetic relationship between the German poet Else Lasker-Schüler and the Yiddish and Hebrew poet Uri Zvi Grinberg spans the political range of Jewish primitivism from the bohemian left to the radical right. Aesthetic primitivism catalyzed Lasker-Schüler’s poetry and visual art and is most strikingly evident in the “Society of Savage Jews,” a utopian community of writers and artists that existed only in her writings and artwork; Grinberg borrowed this trope and used it for very different ends—his savage Jews were Zionist pioneers, creating a nation-state. This lecture will explore the aesthetic and political flexibility of Jewish primitivism, showing how it could marshal the same aesthetics in pursuit of opposing politics.

Hybrid Event
South Thayer Building Room 2022
Register for the Zoom webinar at: https://myumi.ch/844Z6

Samuel Spinner is the Zelda and Myer Tandetnik Assistant Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture at Johns Hopkins University. His book Jewish Primitivism, on primitivism in modern Jewish literature, photography, and graphic art, was published in July 2021 by Stanford University Press. He is currently researching a book on the aesthetics of monumentality in Holocaust museums and literature. His work has appeared in PMLA, MLN, Prooftexts, and German Quarterly. Spinner is a co-editor of “German Jewish Cultures,” a book series published by Indiana University Press and serves as an editor of the Yiddish Studies journal In Geveb.


March 22, 2022
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm EDT
Event Category:


University of Michigan Frankel Center for Judaic Studies
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Thayer Building – Room 2022
202 South Thayer St
Ann Arbor, MI 48104 United States
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