Saturday, January 25, 2014

In Literary Research: Jesus and Uri-Tzvi Greenberg

From the review by Adele Reinhartz (University of Ottawa) of Neta Stahl's "Other and Brother: Jesus in the 20th-Century Jewish Literary Landscape" which, by the way, has the infamous graphic of a Uri Tzvi Greenberg poem on the cover:

"Infamous" in that an order for his arrest was issued in Warsaw causing him to flee to Berlin.

This is was Rheinhaltz writes:

Chapter 2, "Cut off from all of his Brothers, from his Blood," turns to the poetry of Uri Zvi Greenberg (1896-1981). Stahl argues that Greenberg uses the figure of Jesus to reflect his own biography and sense of self, including his experiences in the Austria-Hungarian army during World War I, the 1918 pogrom, immigration to Palestine 1923, and most important, the Holocaust. Greenberg's poetry reflects both alienation from and kinship with Jesus, who is both indifferent to and symbolic of the suffering of European Jewry. Greenberg's poetry incorporates Christian imagery not only verbally but also typographically, a point brilliantly illustrated in his poem "Uri Zvi in front of the Cross INRI" that is used to great effect on the cover of Stahl's book. In the poignant poem "God and his Gentiles," the Christian God descends from heaven, travels through Europe, laments the absence of his Jews, and is himself destined for slaughter due to his Jewish appearance. Whereas in other works the figure of Jesus is differentiated from his Christian interpretations, these poems suggest a bifurcation within the figure of Jesus himself, as both "Other" and "Brother."  This chapter provides several illustrations of Stahl's incisive and beautifully written analyses of poetry.

And from the source:

Uri Zvi Greenberg (1896–1981) was one of the most prominent figures in twentieth century Jewish poetry. In Greenberg's poetry perhaps more than in the work of any other modern Jewish writer, the figure of Jesus reflects his own personal, literary and ideological biography, and his sense of selfhood. Greenberg's characterization of Jesus is profoundly ambivalent. His poetry merges elements of rejection and aversion, rooted in traditional Judaism, with a depiction of Jesus as a character of great charm and mystery who rebels against the social and religious conventions of his time. The chapter is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on the different literary devices Greenberg uses to express the tension between Jesus' human aspect, linked to his Jewish character, and his godly aspect, connected to his idolatrous representation within the Christian Church. The second section demonstrates how this tension becomes an actual division between two personas: the Christian Jesus is referenced by the Slavic name “Yezus,” while the “authentic” Jewish Jesus is called “Yeshu.” The third section discusses the tensions between Greenberg's divergent representations of Jesus as Exilic Jew, Zionist pioneer, and even national Messiah.


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