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Acculturation and Its Discontents

Acculturation and Its Discontents: The Italian Jewish Experience Between Exclusion and Inclusion

David N. Myers
Massimo Ciavolella
Peter H. Reill
Geoffrey Symcox
Volume: 10
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Acculturation and Its Discontents
    Book Description:

    Exploring the fascinating cross-cultural influences between Jews and Christians in Italy from the Renaissance to the twentieth century,Acculturation and Its Discontentsassembles essays by leading historians, literary scholars, and musicologists to present a well-rounded history of Italian Jewry.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8731-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Even the casual observer of the annals of the Jews recognizes the familiar cultural images of Ashkenaz and Sefarad, represented by noble pietists and aristocratic courtiers respectively. These cultural images, born in the Middle Ages and burnished by later historians, survived well into the twentieth century, particularly in the State of Israel where the Jewish population was often (and not always accurately) divided into these two groups.

    While the story of Ashkenazim and Sefardim does indeed account for a good deal of the Jewish historical experience prior to the modern age, it also reduces that experience to a cultural dichotomy...


    • chapter one How ‘Other’ Really Was the Jewish Other? The Evidence from Venice
      (pp. 19-55)

      It is certainly neither original nor profound to assert that the Jew constituted the Other – even the Other par excellence – in pre-emancipation Christian Europe. Indeed, that assertion is often invoked as a short-hand abbreviation to allude to the status of the Jew or adduced as a supposedly self-evident explanation for specific lachrymose manifestations of the Jewish experience. However, the situation requires closer examination. What did Jewish Otherness really entail in both theory and practice, and what better location in which to examine it than the city which, as Robert Bonfil so aptly formulated it, ‘retains the “copyright” for the semantically...

    • chapter two Emotion and Acculturation: Masquerading Emotion in the Roman Ghetto
      (pp. 56-71)

      Every man has his mask. So said Erwin Schenkelbach, noted Jerusalem portrait photographer. For mask, the kind one wears on the face, we might also substitute masque (with a q), the drama. And as dramaturges like the noted Emile Pin might observe, for masques to be believable, they must never distort reality beyond recognition. Otherwise, both they and the theatre where they are props become absurd. They cease to address the audience or to have meaning even for the players themselves.¹

      This theatrical vision epitomizes the ‘state’ (the reason for the quotation marks will soon be apparent) of Roman Jewry...

    • chapter three Between Exclusion and Inclusion: Jews as Portrayed in Italian Music from the Late Fifteenth to the Early Seventeenth Centuries
      (pp. 72-98)

      For Christians, in early and more recent times, the Jews offer a salient, if not quintessential example of alterity, which led more often than not to their exclusion from one or another kind of participation in a Christian-dominated society.² In this essay I shall treat their alterity from a novel perspective: the Jews as portrayed in Italian vocal works of the outgoing fifteenth to the first years of the seventeenth century.³ I shall define them not only as liable to exclusion however, but also more supplely as poised in their attitudes and activities between exclusion and inclusion. The Jews in...

    • chapter four Can Fundamentalism Be Modern? The Case of Avraham Portaleone (1542–1612)
      (pp. 99-116)

      One of the protagonists of the great scientific renaissance in sixteenth-century Europe was an Italian Jew. Avraham Portaleone (1542–1612) practised medicine, one of the traditional professions of the Jewish intellectual elite, in Mantua. Under the rule of the Gonzaga dynasty, the city was one of the main cultural centres during the Renaissance and the Baroque period. Situated on the plain of the river Po to the southeast of Milan, Mantua became a kind of laboratory for the arts, the sciences, and music, while its Jewish community, fairly well-established since the fifteenth century, flourished to such an extent that in...


    • chapter five Jewish Women, Marriage Law, and Emancipation: The Civil Divorce of Rachele Morschene in Late Eighteenth-Century Trieste
      (pp. 119-147)

      In her petition of 3 December 1795 to the Giudizio Civico e Provinciale of Trieste, Rachele Luzzatto (née Morschene), a twenty-five-year-old Jewish woman, poignantly evoked the ‘bitterness and ... anxiety brought on by an ambiguous situation.’¹ Still in doubt was the outcome of her two-year-legal battle to free herself from her husband, the forty-year old broker Lucio Luzzatto, younger brother of one of the most prominent Jews in Trieste.² With the help of her wealthy father Anselmo Morschene, Rachele had filed for a civil separation and support for herself and two-year-old daughter Richetta; her aim now was civil divorce. Her...

    • chapter six The Jews of Italy in the Triennio Giacobino, 1796–1799
      (pp. 148-163)

      In this essay I will examine what happened to Italy’s Jewish communities during theTriennio Giacobino, the three years of Jacobin rule between 1796 and 1799. During this short, dramatic period Italy’s Jews would experience what has come to be called their ‘first emancipation.’ The victorious French armies and their Italian Jacobin allies proclaimed the revolutionary ideal of civil equality, irrespective of race or creed. In the new republics they established, they opened up the ghettoes and promulgated laws that for the first time granted Jews the rights – and imposed the duties – of citizenship. But this emancipation did not last,...

    • chapter seven Singing Modernity: Synagogue Music in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Italy
      (pp. 164-182)

      Liturgical music is slowly but surely emerging as a rich field of enquiry contributing, among other aspects, to a deeper understanding of the Jewish responses to modernity in Western Europe and elsewhere. The performance of prayers in the synagogue has always been a locus for the public display of communal identity, the representation of its aesthetic ideals, and the construction and exposition of its historical memory. Modernity therefore could be ‘heard’ in nineteenth-century synagogues in Western Europe, resonating in its musical choices the diverse Jewish stances towards the quandaries of new, unprecedented times.

      The narrowing of formal Jewish identity to...

    • chapter eight ‘Their True Tongue’: History, Memory, Language, and the Jews of Italy
      (pp. 183-202)

      ‘It is not true that we all speak the same language. Every tribe has its own, a language that belongs to us and to us only, that makes us recognizable among everyone else and that divides us from everybody else.’ Despite its ‘tribal’ reference, this quote by the critic Cesare Garboli, captures one of the essences of a masterpiece of twentieth-century Italian literature: Natalia Ginzburg’sLessico famigliare(Family SayingsorThe Things We Used to Say, in the English and American translations), published by Einaudi over forty years ago.² The quotation also brings us straight to the core of one...

    • chapter nine Growing Up Jewish in Ferrara: The Fiction of Giorgio Bassani
      (pp. 203-210)

      This essay, first and foremost, concerns the transition from historiography to such fields as literary arts, that is, from reconstructions of the ‘real’ world to the reconstruction of artistic or personal interpretations of particular events connected with that world. Such a transition – which is easier today thanks to the stimulating interchanges between culture and society, or works of art and other non-artistic texts, carried out by recent critical trends such as the new historicism in America – proves almost automatic in the case I will discuss. Giorgio Bassani’s Ferrara may be, as an American critic has called it, a ‘semiotic labyrinth,’...

  7. Index
    (pp. 211-228)