Myth and Magic: Storytelling in Hasidism

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 - 5:00pm
Max Kade Center, 3401 Walnut Street, Entrance A, Room 329 (next to Starbucks)

Professor Andreas Kilcher, Literature and Cultural Studies, ETH Zurich

Hasidic stories are not just a modern literary form of religion, a view that has been emphasized especially by Martin Buber. If analyzed with reference to its own categories, much more complex functions of this narrative are revealed, which in turn are rooted in Kabbalistic theories of language, prayer and amulet. Two functions of Hasidic storytelling are to be identified. The first is mythical by establishing tradition with the act of storytelling; the second is magical by viewing storytelling as having a mighty and even messianic power. 

Andreas Kilcher is professor of Literature and Cultural Studies at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich. Kilcher is a prominent scholar of German-Jewish literature and culture, Kabbalah, and the European tradition of esotericism. He has written and edited a range of publications on the encounters between European and Jewish cultures from the sixteenth century through the present, with a focus on the twentieth century. His publications include Geteilte Freude: Schiller-Rezeption in der jüdischen Moderne (Munich, 2006), biographies of the writers Franz Kafka (Frankfurt, 2008) and Max Frisch (Berlin 2011) and numerous articles on German-Jewish literature, Kabbalah in modern Europe, and the relationship between knowledge and literature. Kilcher’s current project includes collaboration with colleagues at Stanford on the divergent constructions of Jewish ethnography in German-speaking and Russian-speaking territories. He was nominated by the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and the Europe Center.

Sponsored by the Slavic Languages & Literatures Department, Comparative Literature Program, and the Jewish Studies Program.

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