Germans and Jews beyond Journalism: Essayism and Jewish Identity in the Writings of Karl Kraus

by Paul B. Reitter
Germans and Jews beyond Journalism: Essayism and Jewish Identity in the Writings of Karl Kraus
Paul B. Reitter
Paul B. Reitter
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University of California-Berkeley

Germans and Jews beyond Journalism:
Essayism and Jewish Identity in the
Writings of Karl Kraus

"Es kommt in der Kunst darauf an, wer jiidelt."

-Karl Kraus

Karl Kraus's invectives against assimi- lated Viennese Jews have been interpreted in radically divergent ways. Indeed, Kraus has been described as both the "leuchten- deste Beispiel von judischem Selbsthal3" and as an "Erzjude." For such prominent critics as Theodor Lessing, Anton Kuh, Wilma Abeles Iggers, Marcel Reich-Ra- nicki, Walter Kaufmann, and, most recently, Sander Gilman, Kraus represents a spectacularly vociferous example of Jewish self-hatred.l Kraus, the self-styled pillar of probity and language purist, attempts to distance himself from things Jewish by vili- fying the unscrupulous capitalism and lin- guistic debauchery of assimilated Viennese Jews. This line of interpretation seems plausible enough, at least upon a first read- ing. For Kraus does in fact inveigh against "Wienerjuden," "Ringstrassejuden," and "Schuhabsatzjuden," to use a few of his preferred formulations, with an incendiary violence and rhetorical excess that practi- cally hector us into viewing him as driven by a deep-seated and irrational self-loath- ing.

Kraus very often regards Viennese Jews as a major cultural liability. According to his first biographer, Leopold Liegler, Kraus sees in the "Judenproblem" the "Kern und Herd des allgemeinen kulturellen Zerstor~ngsprozesses."~

And, indeed, Kraus regards Jewish capitalists as the primary force behind German militarism. He has his famous "Norgler" in Die letzten Tage der Menschheit speak of the "judisch-kapi- talistischen Weltzer~torung."~

But this de- structiveness is no nihilistic act of rebellion against their anti-Semitic environment. Jews, it turns out, are themselves compli- citous with anti-Semitism. Kraus writes, "Und die Wiener Juden? [...I Sie haben sich mit dem k.k. antisemitismus des oster- reichischen Staates abgefunden [...]."4 The claim is a curious one. For Kraus fre- quently derided assimilated Jews for react- ing to anti-Semitism with a tribalist fervor. Apparently, where Kraus's main concern is to condemn, consistency matters little.

The condemnations continue. The Jews' treatment of language is, for the most part, an abomination. Kraus argues that poor Ostjuden sully German with their jiideln, the grubby language of the ghetto, while wealthy assimilants, with their parvenu hunger to display cultural capital, speak a hideously distended Bildungssprache. Moreover, sounding very much like an- other "radiant" example of Jewish self-ha- tred, Otto Weininger, Kraus excoriates the Jewish press for acting as a "Kupplerin" which illicitly brings together literature and journalism in the Feuilleton. Kraus also labels the infiltration of literature by Jewish journalism as a criminal "Einbruch." And he repeatedly associates the inflated discourse this co-mingling of gen- res produces with the 'LJewish" crime of usury. Wucher,the German word for usury, and a kind of metonym for Jewish crimi-

The German Quarterly 72.3 (Summer 1999) 232

nality, figures prominently in many of Kraus's polemics against the press. For example, in his report on a usury trial in- volving several Jewish financiers, Kraus claimed that such types should be convicted of linguistic usury.5

Kraus goes even further. In what must rank among his most vicious remarks about the Jewish press, Kraus likens its evisceration of Geist for the sake of profit to the mythical crime of Jewish ritual mur- der: "Und das Blut, das sie verwenden, ist nicht dem Leib des Christen, sondern dem Geist des Menschen abge~apft."~The pointedness of this statement increases appreciably when we take into account the fact that Kraus began to work with the rhetoric of ritual murder in the wake of the infamous "Hilsner A£fair."7

To offer two final illustrations of Kraus's anti-Semitism: in 1902heresponded to violent uprisings against Jews in Bo- hemia by exhorting them to assimilate. Here again Kraus holds Jews responsible for anti-Semitism. By intransigently stand- ingout, Jews bring persecution upon them- selves. The only way to defuse this hostility is to give up being Jewish, to eradicate Ju- daism. Secondly, in the same year Kraus allowed one of the architects of modern rac- ist theories of anti-Semitism, Houston Ste- wart Chamberlain, to fill almost an entire issue of Die FackeL with his venom.8

And yet, all this vitriolic rancor not- withstanding, Kraus's writings have also been read as elementally Jewish. In his es- say "Sittlichkeit und Kriminalitat," Theo- dor Adorno lionizes Kraus as "der Shylock, der das eigene Blut hergibt, wo der Shakespearesche das Herz des Biirgen herausschneiden m~chte."~

Adorno fig- ures Kraus here as a martyr who perpetu- ates profoundly Jewish traditions by prac- ticing self-immolation. According to Adorno, Kraus, among other things, "intel- lectualized" the ethos of Jewish exile, "[ ...I dazu hat sich bei ihm [Kraus] das Erbteil des verfolgten und pladierenden Juden vergeistig [...l."10 Far from being a perse- cutor, Kraus is the inheritor of that central component of Jewish identity: the tradition of making the anguish of persecution into an occasion for artistic expression and in- tellectual accomplishment.

The roots ofAdorno's position are deep. Walter Benjamin also held Kraus's critical practices to be ur-Jewish. Consider the fol- lowing excerpt from Benjamin's essay "Karl Kraus": "Das Bild der gottlichen Gerechtigkeit als Sprache-ja in der deut- schen selber-zu verehren, das ist der echt jiidische Salto mortale, mit dem er [Krausl den Bann des Dhons zu sprengen sucht."ll Benjamin, we should note, char- acterizes Kraus's Jewishness, or the Jew- ishness of his language, in the strongest terms available. It is not simply Jewish. It is "authentically" Jewish. Fifty years later, the influential literary critic Erich Heller used similarly emphatic rhetoric to vener- ate Kraus's Jewishness. Heller called Kraus "a great Jew."lz

In contending that Kraus pursued Jew- ish intellectual traditions earnestly and productively, Adorno, Benjamin, and Hel- ler imply that, far from being self-hating, Kraus strove heroically to sustain "echt" or "authentically" Jewish cultural life. For Adorno, in fact, Kraus's animus against as- similant Viennese Jews is a reaction against their betrayal of Jewish traditions. Adorno writes:

Was Kraus den Juden nicht verzieh, gegen die er schrieb, war, dal3 sie den Geist an der Sphare des zirkulierenden Kapitals zedierten; den Verrat, den sie begingen, indem sie, auf denen das Odium lastet, und die insgeheim als Opfer auserkoren sind, nach dem Prinzip handelten, das als allgemeines das Unrecht gegen sie meint und auf ihre Vernichtung hinauslief.13

The sentence is difficult to decipher, and not only because of its maverick punctua- tion (Adorno uses a semicolon to set off an appositive:den Verrat) and its long concat- enation of clauses. Quite uncharacteristi- cally, Adorno avails himself of Biblical lan- guage (auserkoren). Is he literally ascribing to Kraus the view that Jews are some kind of mysteriously chosen sacrifice? This seems unlikely. After all, Adorno himself would not have been very sympathetic to such a position, and he clearly endorses the one he is laying out here. Perhaps the Bib- lical resonances are meant further to posi- tion Kraus as a kind of wrathful, modern- day Old Testament prophet. The actual up- shot of the passage reinforces this idea. Kraus the ur-Jew cannot forgive his frivo- lous coreligionists for their crimes against Judaism, for "ceding" or "selling out" Geist, the cornerstone of the Jewish tradi- tion, and for abdicating from their "as- signed," even sacred role as sacrifice by fos- tering their own destruction.

More relevant to our discussion of Kraus's treatment of assimilated Jews are Adorno's attempts to grapple directly with Kraus's fulminations against Jewish cul- ture. Rejecting the notion that Kraus's criticisms are anti-Semitic, Adorno attrib- utes to them a progressive, de-essentializ- ingmoment. Kraus is fundamentally egali- tarian; he attacks both Christians and Jews. In doing so, he implies that there is no essential difference between the two groups. Adorno writes: "Polemik, die zwi- schen ihren Objekten auswihle, Christen angreife und Juden schonte, eignete damit bereits das antisemitische Kriterium eines wesenhaften Unterschieds beider Gruppen zu" (my italics).14 While this statement, which is certainly true in principle, is belied by the special intensity of Kraus's campaign against the "Jewish press," there is indeed much in his writings on questions of Jewish identity that is de-essentializing. In an essay on the question of his own status as a Jew, Kraus problematizes the very idea of essential Jewish characteristics. Putting his point bluntly Kraus states, "Ich wei13 nun doch nicht, was heute jiidsche Eigenschaften sind."l5 And, as Adorno emphasizes, Kraus's preoccupa- tion with deconstructing the Jewish press reflects, paradoxically enough, his respect for it. Kraus writes, "Das mu13 gegeniiber dem Toben einer antisemitischen Presse ausgesprochen werden, die sonst sch&- ferer Kontrolle nicht bedarf, weil sie-ne- ben dem jiidischen-+inen geringeren Grad von Gefahrlichkeit dem hoheren Grad von Talentlosigkeit verdankt."16 The Jewish press is more dangerous, and therefore more deserving of critical attention, be- cause it is more talented. Kraus's compli- ment is certainly laced with bitterness, but, however grudgingly, he is willing to recog- nize the relative merits of what he refers to as "the Jewish press."

Moreover, as we have seen, Kraus pro- tested against the willingness of many Vi- ennese Jews to put up with anti-Semitism. The responsibility for assimilant culture must be shared. It is the product of Jewish opportunism, the Jews' "coming to terms with anti-Semitism7' in order to advance socially and materially. At the same time, this cultural betrayal is made necessary or is at least massively encouraged by an Aus- trian problem, namely, its provincial anti- Semitic policies. Kraus's critique is, then, aimed at both anti-Semitism and capitula- tions to anti-Semitism.

Kraus's parodistic discussion of Zion- ism is similarly double-pronged. Main- stream Zionism, for Kraus, is a form of anti- Semitism. Herzl's and Nordau's Zionism adopts the very premises on which modern anti-Semitism turned: that Jews could not be successfully integrated into European society, and that contemporary European Jews were somehow effete and sickly. Im- plicit in this idea is a distinction between integration and bad, opportunistic assimi- lation. In Eine Krone fiir Zion (1898), Kraus first accuses (early) Zionists of Jew- ish anti-Semitism on a grand scale and then hammers away at their alter egos: Jews who pretend not to have any connection to Judaism. Kraus, the sardonic observer of these developments, seems tacitly to stake out for himself a middle position. A critic of both a Jewish nationalism based on the central tenets of anti-Semitism and of radi- cal assimilationism, Kraus pushes for a process of enlightened integration. Zionist nationalists who believe that Jews do not belong in Europe make Jewishness into the very seat of identity are dealing in, adopt- ing the terms of, essentialist anti-Semi- tism, whether they are aware of it or not. Jews who deny their Jewish identity en- gage in a debilitating self-mutilation. For example, Kraus derided the literary histo- rian Richard M. Meyer for identifying him- self as Richard M. instead of Richard Moses Meyer, calling the abbreviation a kind of "Kastrierung."l7

So who is right? Is Kraus a self-hating Jew? Or is he a great critic of anti-Semi- tism? From what has been said so far, it would seem that some clarification is in or- der. Accordingly, I will offer a brief explica- tion of Kraus's attitude toward Viennese Jews in particular and toward Judaism in general. Unlike, say, Gilman and Adorno, I maintain that Kraus's stance is irreducibly heterogeneous; it is both anti-Semitic, or self-hating, and progressively hostile to many of the stereotypes that Kraus at times reinforces with maniacal ardor. Kraus's writings on Viennese Jews con- front us with a complex double gesture that simultaneously marks assimilated Jews as criminals and seeks to efface precisely such marks. While it would be absurd to say that Kraus is anti-Semitic and anti-anti-Semitic in equal measure-as if such things could be neatly quantified and compared-the contention here is that both elements are so prevalent in his position as to be consti- tutive of it. Thus to portray Kraus as either self-hating or as a "great Jew" is radically to foreshorten his treatment of Viennese Jews. As I develop my own reading of Kraus, I will point out the lack of contrast in Gilman's and Adorno's monochromatic portraiture.

But why has Kraus been labeled either as nefariously anti-Semitic or as "a great Jew?" What does the case of Kraus tell us about the trajectory of theories of Jewish self-hatred and, more specifically, about where their blind spots lie? In the final sec- tion of this essay I will discuss the problem- atic theoretical presuppositions of the vari- ous sides in the Kraus debates. By way of a conclusion, I try to tease out of Ben- jamin's essay on Kraus an approach to Kraus's relation to the question of German Jewish identity that moves past the tangled web of his explicit utterances on the sub- ject.

My concern here is to show how Ben- jamin encourages us to see Kraus as having engaged with this question, with the '3ew- ish Question," on the level of form, and, accordingly, how he encourages us to see the question of Jewish identity as content sedimented in the formal features of Kraus's writing. To be more specific, Ben- jamin emphasizes the radical performativ- ity of Kraus's writing, the connection be- tween Kraus's style and his cultural iden- tity. Anticipating key aspects of Judith Butler's theory of identity construction, al- beit in a very untheoretical, epigrammatic manner, Benjamin subtly suggests that Kraus attempted to mediate German Jew- ish identity through a complex process of invoking and breaking open one of its cru- cial markers in fin de si2cle Vienna: jour- nalistic essayism. Kraus mediated German Jewish identity by becoming a German Jewish journalist beyond journalism.

Man weil3, dal3 mein Hal3 gegen die jiidische Presse nur noch von meinem Hal3 gegen die antisemitische ubertroffen wird, wahrend hingegen mein Hal3 gegen die antisemitische Presse nur wieder von meinem Hal3 gegen die judische Presse ubertroffen wird.

-Karl Kraus

Between the fall of 1913and the sum- mer of 1914, or about two years after his short-lived conversion to Catholicism, Kraus made three attempts to clarify his relation to Judaism. These writings give concentrated expression to a position that would otherwise have to be extracted from mostly fragmentary statements that lie scattered throughout many essays. They will comprise, therefore, the bulk of the tex- tual material from which I develop my reading of Kraus's relation to Jews and Ju- daism.

Kraus's attempts at clarification were written as responses to captiously curious readers of Die Fackel. Asked by a reader how, given his ruthless criticisms of assimi- lated Viennese Jews, he is able to tolerate their presence at his lectures, Kraus strikes an egalitarian tone. Kraus claims that he despises all the groups represented in his audiences equally. At least one of Kraus's readers was disappointed with this answer. A different reader responded to Kraus's re- sponse by demanding further explication. And he or she did so aggressively, querying Kraus as to whether he had "den Mut" nec- essary to answer the question: "Glauben Sie, dd Ihnen nichts von allen Eigenschaf- ten der Juden anhaftet?"18 The reader's provocation turned out to be productive. For Kraus's answer, "Er is doch e Jud," stands as his most extensive formulation of his relation to Jews and anti-Semitism.

Obviously and indeed understandably miffed at the suggestion that he might lack courage-Kraus had many shortcomings, but cowardice was not one of them-Kraus holds forth with reckless openness. He seems intent on flaunting the contradic- tory nature of his position and an aware- ness of his own aporias, as the article is animated by a paratactic tension that is foregrounded everywhere and nowhere re- solved.

Kraus begins with a discussion of Jew- ish characteristics. He writes that he hates all those Jewish characteristics that he would not find "aufjenem Stand der Juden- heit, wo sie sich noch nicht von Gott selbstandig gemacht hatte."lg Then he avows about himself, "da13 mir nichts von allen Eigenschaften der Juden anhaftet, die wir nach dem heutigen Stand derjiidis- chen Dinge einverstbdlich feststellen w01len."~~

What are these characteristics? Kraus contends that they have to do with an orientation toward crude goals. Kraus is moving on painfully familiar ground here. Contemporary Jews are vulgar mate- rialists. They speak the language. Anti- Semites, he maintains, are superior to con- temporary Jews in that their hatred "zu einem Ursprung zustrebt und nie zu einem Ziel."

The issue of goals is of central impor- tance to Kraus. He conceives of himself as a person exaltedly unconcerned with social status and material wealth. And this indif- ference to gaining social, political, and eco- nomic advantages is just what makes him ethically superior to all those caught up in, and blinded by, the pursuit of immediate ends. But Kraus is not prepared to set up a simple dichotomy between himself as sublimely goal-free and the Jews as a base people of materialistic goals. Indeed, just after he establishes venal striving as a Jew- ish characteristic, Kraus writes:

Ich weilj nun doch nicht, was jiidische Eigenschaften sind. Wenn es nur eine gibt, die alle andern, besseren verstellt, Macht- und Habgier, so sehe ich diese auf alle Volker des Abendlandes gleichmiiI3ig und nach dem Ratschlulj teuflischer Ge- rechtigkeit verteilt, und wenn dann nur noch eine bleibt, der singende Tonfall, in dem sie ihre Geschafte besorgen and be- sprechen, so sage ich, d& ihn die anderen auch treffen kijnntene2l

In his informative and often perspica- cious reading of "Er ist doch e Jud," Sander

L. Gilman passes over this pithy de-essen- tializing of Jewish characteristics. Gilman focuses on the final sentences of the para- graph from which Ijust cited. There Kraus speaks of the need to address the lyrical "Tonfall" or, as he puts it below, "the lan- guage of the world," as a Jewish charac- teristic:

Es ist die Sprache der Welt, es ist ihre Sehnsucht, und wir diirfen sie, miissen sie als einen jiidischen Zug ansprechen, weil es die Mission der Juden war, dank ihrer herredungsgabe, Ausdauer und grijl3e- ren hung im durch die Welt kommen, dieser, eben diese Eigenschaften anzu- h~ngen.~~

According to Gilman, this statement condemns the language of the Jews for be- ing inherently materialistic. Within the context of Kraus's piece, however, it has a very different resonance. It is meant to trouble the assertion that precedes it, namely that the language of the world isn't at all particular to Jews. Otherwise put, Kraus's indictment of the Jewish language of the world, juxtaposed as it is with a coun- tervailing claim, produces, first and fore- most, confusion. It remains a kind of con- demnation. But it can only be called an eminently murky one. To cite it without making some reference to its function within the text is to cite it out of context.

We might also note here that Kraus never actually positively identifies a Jewish Eigenschaft. Rather, he speaks above of a

jiidischen Zug. It is a Jewish Zug to spread

venal Eigenschaften through the world.

And yet, as we have already seen, Kraus

doesn't know what a jiidische Eigenschaft

is. Now both Zug and Eigenschaft can be

translated as "characteristic," so dwelling

on this slight variation in Kraus's diction

may seem like hair-splitting. Nonetheless,

Zug, I would argue, is appreciably softer,

i.e., less essentializing, than Eigenschaft.

Zug ultimately derives from ziehen, "to

pull." The point is that Zug, with its con-

notations of motion, is a relatively open-

ended way of expressing "characteristic."

Eigenschaft, in contrast, immediately

evokes the notion of a particular or essen-

tial feature. For eigen has to do with es-

sences. Something that is eigen to someone

is an essential aspect of that person. Eigent-

lich means really or essentially. By naming

a jiidischen Zug and not a jiidische Eigen-

schaft, he directly, if also subtly, obfuscates what at first seems to be one of his more spectacular essentializing gestures.

Furthermore, Kraus's assertion that Jews have a special intimacy with the lan- guage of the world, and that this language should therefore beviewed as a JewishZug, is itself not quite as unambiguously essen- tialist as it might, at first, appear to be. Throughout the passage Kraus exploits the double meaning of "world." The language of the world is not simply the language of Jewish materialism, a pre-occupation with "worldly goods" that is most spectacular in Jewish capitalists. As we have seen above, it has been "divided equally among all peo- ples"; it is widespread. The language of the Jews is the language of the world because it is spoken throughout the world. Here, I think, Kraus is obliquely making some- thing like the following point: his critique of bourgeois Jewish culture should be situ- ated within a larger critique of capitalist culture. Jewish culture, insofar as it inter- sects with capitalist culture, will be sub- jected to this ~riti~ue.~3

While Kraus inti- mates that Jews are more at home than others in "die Sprache der Welt," nowhere does he say that they are its sole speakers.24 In fact, he explicitly states that they aren't. Any attempt to impose a strict binarism on Kraus's thinking, such as "the corrupt lan- guage of the Jews versus good German," is ~ntenable.~~

For Kraus the Jews are far from alone in speaking a corrupt language. Language corruption, as the language of the world, pervades the world. And it does not always matter very much to Kraus who is doing the corrupting.

For example, in his best-known essay on Heine, "Heine und die Folgen," Kraus emphasizes that his criticisms are not aimed at "Heine the Jew."26 Gilman tries to get around the lack of references to Hei- ne's Judaism in the essay by saying that "Kraus carefully avoids such references," thereby suggesting that anti-Semitism forms the text's artfully constructed sub- text.27 But why would Kraus carefully avoid making references to Judaism? After all, he felt perfectly free to invoke the cru- dest anti-Semitic stereotypes against Jew- ish writer~.~B

Kraus, to be sure, desultorily appropriates an array of anti-Semitic tropes in the essay.29 But these allusions merely serve to spice his polemic. They do not constitute its substance. Here, again, my point is that for Kraus language corrup- tion was not a fundamentally Jewish prob- lem. Hermann Bahr receives as much abuse from Kraus as Heine, and for pre- cisely the same reasons: both violate Kraus's ethics of language. Jews and Ger- mans are often figured as partners in an economy of bad expression. As Kraus writes in an earlier essay, "Um Heine" (1906), "Den deutschen Mann geniert es gar nicht, die in Sentimentalitat erweichte Empfindung Heine'scher Liebeslyrik beim Juden zu ka~fen."~O

Jews may be the shop- owners, but Germans are unashamed to buy from them. Rather than adversaries, Jews and Germans would seem to be co- conspirators in the struggle um die Spra- che.

Indeed, in "Er ist doch e Jud," Kraus self-consciously debunks reductionist readings of his attitude toward "the lan- guage of the Jews." He writes:

Ich weil3 nicht, ob es eine judische Eigen- schaft ist, das Buch Hiob lesenswert zu finden, oder ob es Antisemitismus ist, ein Buch Schnitzlers in die Ecke des Zimmers zu werfen. Ob es judisch gefuhlt ist oder deutsch zu sagen, da13 die Schriften der Juden Else Lasker-Schuler und Peter Altenberg Gott und der Sprache naher ste- hen als alles was das deutsche Schrifttum in den letzten funfzig Jahren die Herr Bahr lebt, hervorgebracht hat. hl

Kraus has been accused of partaking here of an almost ineluctable concomitant of Jewish self-hatred, the construction of a good Jewhad Jew dualism. According to this reading, Kraus is naming the neces- sary Others of the Jews he so reviles. These Others are the "good Jews" Else Lasker- Schuler and Peter Altenberg, who have transcended the materialistic language of the Jews that remains, for Kraus, "the es- sence of J~daism."~~ where does

But Kraus suggest that Lasker-Schuler and Al- tenberg have overcome their Jewishness? Kraus's message, it seems to me, moves in the opposite direction, as he bluntly disso- ciates aesthetic judgment from questions of race. After proclaiming the literary im- portance of Lasker-Schuler and Alten- berg, Kraus writes: "Mit der Rasse kenne ich mich nicht aus."33 Kraus repeatedly emphasizes this point, namely, that con- flating art and ethnic identity is problem- atic. It might even be called one of the es- say's leitmotifs.

Another of Kraus's chef concerns is his right to criticize a Jewish author without being discredited as a self-hating Jew. If made without due circumspection, attempts to ascribe a critical attitude toward Schnitzler to Jewish self-hatred will be- come absurd. Such attempts to undermine potentially valid criticism should be sub- jected to irony, which is just what Kraus does with the sketch he draws of himself tossing one of Schnitzler's works into the corner.

Irony is a crucial component of Kraus's response to the incipient discourse on Jewish self-hatred. As mentioned, Kraus seems to have understood how the charge of self- hatred can evoke well-worn, Weiningerian stereotypes about the deficient creative faculties of the Jewish intellect.34 In his satirical drama Literatur oder man wird da sehn, a drama a clef about Franz Werfel, Kraus has Werfel's followers taunt him, Kraus, by calling out: '"Selbsthal3 des Judentums!' 'Alles was er kann, ist uns nachjudeln!' 'Epigone!' 'Alles haben wir ihm v~rgejudelt!"'~~

At the center of the passage is the nachjiidelnlvorjiideln dualism, which, in turn, operates on two levels of irony. First, Werfel's Jewish admirers would not have boasted their ability to vor- judeln, since judeln, "to speak like a Jew," carried decidedly pejorative connotations. Kraus's neologism vorjiideln is thus a sar- donic characterization of the attempt to de- velop an "authentically creative" Jewish literary culture, a linguistic practice that is by definition vor and, therefore, originary, primordial. Secondly, and more relevant to our discussion, Werfel's vitalist minions la- bel Kraus a self-hater and avail themselves of anti-Semitic rhetoric in the same breath. For nachjudeln was an imprecation used to emphasize the derivative nature of all Jew- ish discourse. Kraus's point, it seems to me, is that a theory of Jewish self-hatred which is organized around the ideal of authentic- ity and, consequently, casts self-hating Jews as inauthentic, reinforces, willy-nilly, stereotypes about Jewish creativity or the

lack thereof.

Many of Kraus's utterances about Ger- man Jewish culture respond critically to the burgeoning contemporary discourse on Jewish self-hatred, rather than to the ac- tual discourse of Jewish self-hatred. Here Kraus's irony also functions as an assertion of ironic distance to the mania that was often ascribed to him. For the idea that un- dergirded (and undergirds) most theories of Jewish self-hatred, including Theodor Lessing's "classic" treatise Der judische Selbsthap (1931),namely, that Jewish self- hatred is a pathology whose logic operates behind the backs of those it afflicts, simply does not apply in Kraus's case. Consider Lessing's extravagant admonition:

Wer das Phanomen 'Selbsthal3' ehrlich er- griinden will, der mu13 tief in die Tiefe hin- absteigen. Bis zu jenem Punkte, wo aus einem vormenschlichen Element zum er- sten Male der Menschheit geistiges Be- wul3tsein das fragende und klagende Auge aufschlagt. [...] Wir miissen hinabtau- chen in einen Urgrund, wo aus der all- verschlungenen All-Einheit, welche we- der Ich kennt noch Du, zum ersten Male die groJ3e Ich-und-Du-Spaltung hervorblit~t.~~

Jewish self-hatred begins "deep in the deep." It is the result of a failed "Ich-Du Spaltung." Whatever sounds like Jewish self-hatred is the outward expression, the polished reflection, of a profound psychic deformity. How, after all, could one dissem- ble or disguise an ur-mechanism to which one is necessarily blind? By working ironi- cally with the discourse of Jewish self-ha- tred, Kraus implicitly challenges the terms of the vitalist and psychologistic discourse on Jewish self-hatred. His ironic awareness of his status as a self-hating Jew and flip- pant attitude toward this status belie the claim that he is caught in the grip of a pri- mordial pathology. When Kraus plays with neologisms like vorjiideln and nachjudeln, then, he is not only ridiculing the manifest excesses of what was for him an aestheti- cally objectionable and ethically suspect vitalist discourse on Jewish self-hatred, he is also establishing his reflexivity, his critical perspective, where he has been accused of ragng out of control, of lacking rational judgment. If we are to make any sense of the deliberate convolutedness of Kraus's remarks on Jews and Judaism, we must thematize Kraus's relation to his convo-

luted discursive context.

Similarly, the idea of an archetypal "good Jew" is far removed from Kraus's thinking. Zionism was so unpalatable for Kraus largely because of its insistence on some kind of authentic Jewish identity. Thus when Kraus writes, "Ich glaube von mir sagen zu durfen, daI3 ich mit der Entwicklung des Judentums bis zum Exo- dus noch mitgehe, aber den Tanz um das goldene Kalb nicht mehr mitma~he,"~~

he is not necessarily claiming to be the custo- dian of an unsullied, authentic Jewish identity. (A claim to Jewish authenticity wouldn't jibe particularly well with such an irreverent invocation of the Old Testa- ment.) Rather, he is creating an ironic ge- nealogy of the materialism that pervades contemporary Jewry. And, of course, he is also rejecting the Zionist tenet that Juda- ism saw its best years in Israel and should therefore seek to return. To come back, once again, to Lasker-Schuler and Alten- berg, the question of how exactly their lin- guistic success relates to their Jewishness is left open by Kraus. It is precisely in this openness that we have another example of Kraus's progressive turn away from reduc- tive, essentialist readings of Judaism, be they anti-Semitic or Zionist-nationalist.

But Kraus also makes statements in "Er ist doch e Jud" which do not cohere at all with those that problematize the very idea of cleanly correlating language use with religious or ethnic identity. As soon as he is ready to establish his own language as ethically exemplary, Kraus begins deal- ing in the very stereotypes he had ques- tioned earlier. Suddenly a whole series of unethical tendencies can be easily identi- fied as Jewish. And especially perspicuous are ones which concern the relation of as- similated Jews to language. Here, without manifesting any reservations at all, Kraus inscribes Jewish writing as inflationary, in- different to the particularity of words, and, therefore, ethically bankrupt. For it is by demonstrating that his language does not evince Jewish vices that Kraus proves, at least to himself, that his language is super- latively ethical. This abrupt syllogistic in- terlude yields the paradoxical conclusion, "Bin ich ein Vielschreiber, dem jeder Buch- stabe zum Wundmal wird-wer wird be- haupten konnen, d& ich ein Journalist bin. Es murjte denn eine judische Eigen- schaft sein, keine zu haben."38 Kraus's ar- gument is not only paradoxical because it plays with the idea of a Jewishness that exhibits no Jewish characteristics. The no- tion of sensuous letters becoming the mark of a wound carries fairly direct cabbalistic resonances, while the term "Wundmal" is used almost exclusively as a designation for Christ's wounds. And so Kraus insinuates himself into a Jewish tradition of language veneration, even as he asserts that there is an unbridgeable distance between Jewish writing practices and his own.39

While it is not exactly contradictory, Kraus's treatment of anti-Semitism in "Er ist doch e Jud" is hardly consistent. As noted earlier, Kraus encourages anti-Sem- ites in their search for origins (again, "sie [anti-Semites] streben nach einem Ur- sprung und nicht nach einem Ziel"). Yet when he goes on to brag about the epic di- mensions of the hatred he harbors toward assimilated Jews, Kraus claims that, next to it, the hatred of most anti-Semites is a "Kinderspiel."40 And he also reproaches that "schabiger Antisemitismus" for being so craven as to succumb to the "Auf- schwung des kosmopolitischen Juden-

However, later on, Kraus assails what would seem to be the counterpart of "shoddy anti-Semitism," namely the ele- vated anti-Semitism of the linguist Lanz- Liebenfels, for its sheer "Dummheit. "42 This deprecating assessment of Lanz-Lie- benfels stands in direct opposition to ones made elsewhere by Kraus. Significantly enough, Wilma Abeles Iggers, who sees Kraus as a self-hating Jew, mentions only Kraus's friendly remarks about Lanz-Lie- benfels and does not acknowledge that Lanz-Liebenfels was also treated derisively by Kraus. Similarly, Adorno fails to note both Kraus's vituperative proclamations of his contempt for assimilated Jews and his at times almost collegial relations with no- torious anti-Semites.

To be sure, Adorno registers the vio- lence of Kraus's criticisms of Viennese Jews (albeit without citing specific exam- ples). Adorno, we will recall, argues that Kraus poured so much bile on assimilated Jews because he felt that they had betrayed their "hallowed" tradition. Certainly there is something to this point. In "Er ist doch e Jud" Kraus laments, though not without some irony, that anti-Semites are able to enjoy the "ehrwiirdigen Beute einer vom Judentum selbst verratenen Lebensweise [.. And, as we have seen, Kraus lik- ened his critical stance toward assimilated Jews to the wrathful righteousness of the Old Testament prophets. But is Kraus's central concern the preservation of Jewish traditions and cultural life, as Adorno and those who regard Kraus as a "great Jew" suggest? It seems to me that what Kraus objects to most viscerally in assimilated Jews is their opportunism. Assimilation is not necessarily a problem. Kraus himself calls for complete cultural integration. What is unethical is assimilation for profit. For this selling-out of culture, this ceding of Geist to capitalism, as Adorno puts it, does not end with the betrayal of Jewish culture. It persists, leading directly to the language corruption through which the '3ewish" press brought about "der Unter- gangder Welt," to use Kraus's formulation. Where assimilation is driven by greed quondam victims will become brutal per- petrators. In fact, when he hurls impreca- tions at the press for its nihilistic incur- sions into the private sphere, Kraus very oRen compares the agony and humiliation which attends the press's scandal-monger- ing to medieval tortures. The implication is that the Jews survived the horrors of me- dieval persecutions only to become tortur- ers.

And, in fact, Kraus often refers to the press as the real oppressor in Austria. Ac- cused of ingratiating himself with aristo- crats to gain social advantages, Kraus claims that if he were out for such advan- tages it would make much more sense for him to propitiate the Jewish press, for they are the real power-brokers in Vienna. Through the press, according to Kraus, "die Unterdriickten unterdriicken die Un- terdni~ker."~~

Thus it is not primarily their abandonment of Judaism that Kraus tar- gets in his attacks on assimilated Jews. Rather, he takes issue with what he sees as the enduring greed or pursuit of immediate goals that led them to assimilate in the first place. For greed has no respect for the in- timate sphere where personal ethical choices are made and the ability to think ethically is developed. Hence for Kraus there exists a strong connection between a Jewish press which forces prefabricated opinions on its reader. Moreover, just as the Jewish press invades and obviates the imaginations of its readers, thus cultivat- ing a lucrative dependency, so the "Jewish science" psychoanalysis, Kraus writes, "analysiert mir den Traum, in den mein Eke1 vor ihm flii~htet."~~

Kraus also seems to perceive a rapacious assimilationist ethos behind the press's insensitivity to the particularity of words. Shades of meaning are necessarily insignificant when mass production is the bottom line. Here too the language of the assimilationist press is pro- foundly and dangerously unethical, since choosing words carefully is, for Kraus, the basis of all ethical decision making. Sum- marizing and endorsing this position, Hel- ler writes, "Kraus saw the connection be- tween maltreated words and maltreated b0dies."~6

But, again, linguistic turpitude and ethical bankruptcy are not particular to Jews. Now Kraus does seem to feel that former victims who turn around and en- gage in predatory behavior are especially nefarious. And at times he deploys crude generalizations about the relation of Jews to certain professions to foreground the role played by assimilated Jews in the de- mise of ethical life in Austria. Yet just as frequently Kraus takes the opposite tack and emphasizes that Jews are only among those responsible for the imminent apoca- lypse. In doing so, Kraus implicitly throws into disarray densely coded notions of a specifically Jewish criminality. For exarn- ple, Kraus's writings on contemporary at- tempts to legislate ethics or Sittlichkeitsprozesse have nothing to say about the par- ticularly Jewish nature of this crime, even though many of the judges and most of the lawyers whose actions Kraus so bitterly abhors were in fact Jewish. Here, then, Kraus's indignation would seem to be pro- pelled by a general obsession with justice rather than by an irrational, internecine self-loathing.

However, where Kraus feels the need to distinguish himself from the moral defects of which assimilated Viennese Jews par- take so abundantly, he often has recourse to brutally apodictic and essentializing statements about them. We have already seen how this process works. The asymme- try in Kraus's position comes out most sal- iently in his final attempt to clarify his re- lation to Jews: "Sehnsucht nach aristokra- tischem Umgang." Written in the summer of 1914, the article responds to a letter that accused Kraus of using anti-Semitism op- portunistically, as an obsequy meant to curry the favor of anti-Semitic aristocrats. The letter also reproves Kraus for selling out his Jewish radical literati friends.

Kraus begins his answer by rejecting the insinuation that he was ever on friendly footing with the radical literati. With his typical truculence, he writes that he hates the plague less than he hates the radical literati. He also maintains that this hatred has nothing to do with their Judaism. This move follows the pattern of what I have been describing as Kraus's de-essentializ- ing of stereotypes against Jews. For Kraus criticizes the radical literati for making their "Geburtsscheine die erste und letzte Wahrheit ihres Leben~."~~

Intellectualidentity, in other words, should not be re- duced to ethnic identity. And Kraus makes it clear that he detests the intellectual de- ficiencies of the radical literati, and their Jewishness.

At the same time, Kraus claims that he is no great admirer of the aristocracy. Aus- trian aristocrats, according to Kraus, are aristocratic in name only. Their politics can be just as inane as the politics of the radical literati. In distancing himself from the anti-Semitic aristocrats whom he suppos- edly wants to befriend, Kraus again implic- itly counters the charge of anti-Semitism. Here he in fact treats Lanz-Liebenfels even more harshly than he did in "Er ist doch e Jud," calling him an "Ariofanatiker.'"@ That Kraus refuses directly to deny the charge of anti-Semitism is, however, strik- ing. And Adorno, Benjamin, Heller, and the other thinkers who claim that Kraus is first and foremost a resolute opponent of anti- Semitism would be hard pressed to explain this.49 Whatever his reasons may have been, Kraus was intent on maintaining a systematically ambiguous stance on the is- sue of anti-Semitism. When an anti-Semitic newspaper, Die Deutsche Tageszei- tung, insinuated that Kraus's high opinion of Peter Altenberg derived from solidarity among coreliponists, Kraus reacted by decrying it and "alle antisemitische Blat- tern as closer to the Jewish "Drang des Nepotismus als der Herausgeber von Die Fackel."50 Like so many of his responses to anti-Semitism, the remark manages to be at once anti-Semitic and anti-anti-Semitic.

Kraus concludes "Sehnsucht nach ari- stokratischem Umgang," by refuting the assertion that he is an opportunist. Aban- doning his earlier line of reasoning, Kraus sets up a rigid dichotomy between his ethi- cal asceticism and the opportunism that preponderates among assimilated Jews. Kraus does not rely on social connections. He is independent and goes his own way. Jews, conversely, are inveterate shmoozers and are completely dependent on "Verbin- dungenen51 Drawing an odd, hyperbolic parallel, Kraus writes that depriving Jews of the telephone would be like depriving the bourgeoisie of the right to v0te.5~ Kraus vigorously scorns social advantages or "ge- sellschaftliche Vorteile" while "Handeljuden" climb by making others sink, by making "Parnvenus nach unten" out of a desperate arist~cracy.~~

When Kraus reas- serts that he was never aligned with the radical literati, he does so in a new key. He contends that he is not striving after aris- tocratic society, for such a thing no longer exists. Rather, he is fleeing the radical lite- rati because this ilk, which he now marks as Jewish, is "1ebensgefahrlich"-Er ist die Pest, die sich des Daseins freut und jeg- lichem Bazillus auaer dem eigenen auf der Spur i~t."~*

Kraus no longer views the radi- cal literati simply as stupid and inept. They are a manifestation of a particularly Jewish disease.

Kraus's unsettling plagueiparasite metaphor is evocative of virulent forms of anti-Semitism. And yet, as I have tried to demonstrate, it does not tell the whole story. Kraus was also a brilliantly effective critic of anti-Semitism and Nazi violence. Some of the most chilling accounts of early Nazi initiatives can, in fact, be found in Kraus's Dritte Walpurgisnacht (1934). If we want to understand Kraus we have to recognize that he was somehow able to play, at once, two apparently mutually exclusive parts: the part of anti-Semite and the part of anti-anti-Semite. For those who want to see Kraus as the very paradigm of Jewish self-hatred, this means taking a position that is theoretically unsatisfying. For those who find Kraus's critical acumen compel- ling it means sustaining a difficult tension.

Es gibt besonders unter den Juden-wie Sie die Schriften Lassalles lehren kann-Men- schen, die ein unerhijrt advokatorisches Ge- hirn haben, die Ganglien des Gehirns form- lich sind schon Kurven advokatorischer Beweisfuhrung. Ich bin uberzeugt, da13 schon der jugendliche Kraus mit diesem fabelhaften dialektischen Talent zum Recht- haben die Familie uberrascht hat, mit diesen frappierenden Ergiissen seiner Rede.

-Anton Kuh

Dem, der deutet, anstatt hinzunehmen und einzuordnen, wird der gelbe Fleck dessen angeheftet, der kraftlos, mit fehlgeleiteter Intelligenz spintisiere und hineinlege, wo es nichts auszulegen gibt.

-Theodor W .1!rno ("Der Essay als Fonn'y

So far, I have asserted that Kraus has been read as either a self-hating Jew or as a great Jew, and I have tried to show where these univocal readings of Kraus fail. My "counter-contention" has been that Kraus's writings on Jews, Jewish cul- ture, and the problem of Jewish identity are wildly contradictory. There have been a few attempts to mediate between the po- lemical poles in the debate on Kraus. But such attempts have themselves remained unfortunately one-sided. Consider the cases of Wilma Abeles Iggers and Harry Zohn.55 Writing around the same time as Heller and Adorno, both Iggers and Zohn seem to have every intention of developing a balanced position on Kraus. Both get de- railed. Studiously overlooking the first part of her argument, which emphasizes the complexity of Kraus's writings on Jews, Ig- gers winds up contending that Kraus is ba- sically a self-hating Jew. Zohn's very title, "Karl Kraus: 'Jiidischer Selbsthasser' oder 'Er~jude'?"~~

bespeaks his willingness to examine Kraus's multifariousness. Yet af- ter presenting ample and compelling evi- dence of Kraus's anti-Semitism, Zohn ulti- mately argues that Kraus was, in the end, a good Jew, if not a great one. To conclude on an upbeat, Zohn must not only per- emptorily break off a differentiated inter- pretation and cite the good reviews Kraus received from a prominent Yiddish news- paper, acting as though the Yiddish news- paper were a religious authority, but he must also foreground Kraus's good deeds for the Jewish community-Kraus apparently gave regularly to a Jewish foundation for the blind-as though such acts func- tioned as indulgences that could absolve blatantly anti-Semitic remarks.

What do these rather peremptory acts of hermeneutic foreclosure tell us? My argument is that they shed additional light on the limitations of the prevailing theories of Jewish anti-Semitism. They show, to put the point more concretely, that analyses of Jewish anti-Semitism have tended to oper- ate according to a dualistic moralism, a moralism that demands closure: the figure or work in question must be either anti-Se- mitic or philosemitic, either an enemy or a friend of the Jews. Iggers and Zohn labor manifestly under this pressure, and, as we have seen, both give in to it.

Although they are not programmatic in the same way as are Adorno and Heller, Iggers and Zohn are caught up in a tradi- tion of post-Shoah historiography that pushes them toward the polemical poles of the debate on Kraus. They might be seen as engaging in what Michael Andre Bern- stein has called "back~hadowing."~~

According to Bernstein, backshadowing is a mode of understanding that projects the shadow of an apocalyptic event on to its prehistory. Practitioners ofbackshadowing condemn Jews who failed to foresee the Holocaust asblind, as too furated on assimi- lation to recognize they had begun digging their own graves and would soon be doing so quite literally. At the same time, back- shadowers elevate those who oraculated some kind of cataclysm to prophet-like status. Kafka's works, for example, are re- duced to chillingly prescient diagnoses of Nazism. Everything here is read in terms of its place in a master-narrative that can only end with Auschwitz. Everyone is held accountable for understanding his or her role in this narrative.

Gilman's study, with its often condem- natory tone, tends also to backshadow. For Gilman the question of German Jewish self-hatred cannot be extricated from the question of Jewish complicity with the Holocaust. German Jewish self-hatred may be a pathology, but insanity proves to be no defense here. Self-hating Jews are taken to task for their calamitous blindness as Gilman solves the pressing theoretical question: How to give some agency back to the Jews, how to portray them as some- thing other than passive victims, without mitigating German guilt? Along with the shift from a bombastic vitalist psycholo- gism, to a much more productive historical psychologism, it is the long shadow of the Holocaust that stands between Gilman's work and Lessing's.

The most recent attempt to disentangle Kraus's paradoxical utterances about Jews and Jewish identity (which is also the only full-length monograph on the subject), John Theobald's The Paper Ghetto, is simi- larly troubled by the problems of Holocaust historiography.58 To be sure, Theobald does an excellent of cataloguing these state- ments. But he fails to explore their seman- tic plenitude. Following Gilman, he con- tends that Kraus assimilated the anti-Se- mitic disposition of his environment, and that Kraus therefore sought desperately "to escape" from his Jewishness. Ulti- mately, Theobald "judges" Kraus to be af- flicted by Jewish self-hatred. And his psy- chologistic-moralistic judgment precludes a substantive openness to Kraus's other side, his strong identification with and de- fense of Jews and Jewish culture.

For a variety of reasons, then, recent attempts to mediate in the Kraus debates have not done much to clarify Kraus's po- sition. They have tended in fact to perpetu- ate or reinforce long-standing distortions. My response, in this chapter, has been to offer what I hope is a self-consciously dif- ferentiated characterization of Kraus's writings on Jewish identity.59 Does this conclusion bring us to a kind of oddly equivocal closure? Or might not there be a more subtle way to read Kraus's relation to and engagement with the problem of Jewish identity? In order to make my main point directly, I have left the more theoreti- cally compelling questions that are raised in and by the Kraus debates. Foremost among these questions is one which chal- lenges us to move to a deeper level of analy- sis, to the level where the formal features of Kraus's writing interlock with the prob- lem of Jewish identity. By way of a conclu- sion, I would like to outline how we might read this content sedimented in Kraus's form.

In the body of this chapter I tookup only one aspect of the Kraus-as-great-Jew line of argumentation: Kraus's explicit expres- sions of antipathy toward anti-Semitism and identification with Jewish. Again, the more difficult one-what are the connec- tions between the form of Kraus's writing and the problem of Jewish identity?-was left open. This omission is of course under- standable. After all, the contention, ad- vanced by Scholem and Buber, among oth- ers, that Kraus's writing contains cabbal- istic resonances is poignant but vague, as is the very idea of an "essentially" Jewish writing.60 Yet not everyone who holds Kraus's writing to be Jewish works with such opaque categories. The unexplored, elliptical core of Benjamin's essay on Kraus is the idea of a constitutive interplay be- tween Kraus's "style," as Benjamin puts it, and identity, Jewish identity.61 Indeed, the interpretive challenge Benjamin leaves us with is just this: to conceptualize his apho- ristic insight that Kraus constructed or "performed" his identity on the level of form, or perhaps better, by turning stand- ardized literary forms into relentlessly par- ticular prose. For Benjamin's own perfor- mativity-his essay about Kraus is written in a kind of Krausian ductus-has as its practical effect an avoidance of systematic argumentation, and a heavy and daringly dramatic use of rhetorical figures. (Kraus, incidentally, remarked that he found Ren- jamin's essay fascinating but utterly incom- prehensible.) He writes, for example, "So kommt sein [Kraus's] Stil zustande und mit ihm der typische Fackelleser, dem noch im Nebensatz, in der Partikel, ja im Kom- ma stumme Fetzen und Fasern von Nerven zucken, am abgelegenstenund trockensten Faktum noch ein Stiick des geschundenen Fleisches Benjamin's point would seem to be that where identity is a linguistic performance, every linguistic act is a pain- ful re-inscription of identity, a laceration or, as Kraus himself puts it, "ein Wundmal." Every sentence Kraus writes discloses his innermost self, for this self is constituted in and through language. Thus, in Die Fackel, "am abgelegensten und trocken- sten Faktum noch ein Stiick des geschun- denen Fleisches hangt."

By claiming that Kraus's style is some- how constitutive of his identity, and then, later in the essay, that Kraus's relation to language is "authentically Jewish," Ben- jamin tacitly confronts us with the ques- tion: What is the connection between Kraus's style and his authentically Jewish relation to language? What is the connec- tion between stylistic identity and Jewish identity? Benjamin does not offer a direct answer, but he does point us in a strikingly modern direction. In addition to his discus- sion of identity as a linguistic performance, Benjamin's remarks on Kraus's citational practices resonate with a very influential contemporary theory of gender identity.

According to Judith Butler, identity be- comes legible, or "materializes," through a compulsory citing of regulatory norms, i.e., the discursive markers of gender.63 Butler writes: "The process of that sedimentation or what we might call materialization will be a kind of citationality, the acquisition of being through the citing of power, a citing that establishes an originary complicity with power in the formation of the 'I.'"G4 The performance of identity will always be citational, since the system, "the regula- tory regime" in whose terms a subject be- comes intelligible, or acquires being, nec- essarily precedes the becoming intelligible, the materializing, and the acquiring of be- ing. Hence we are inexorably complicit with the regulatory norms we often criti- cize as if they we somehow oppressors ex- ternal to us. "The paradox of subjectivica- tion (assujetissement)is that the subject who would resist such norms is itself en- abled, if not produced, by such norms."65

Benjamin speaks, suggestively enough, in a very similar vein about Kraus's com- pulsory citational practices. After stressing the performativity of Kraus's identity, he goes on to write:

Die Zitate der Fackel sind mehr als Beleg-

stellen [...I. Was ihn [Kraus] dergestalt

verstrickt, ist aber mehr noch als das Tun

und Lassen ist die Sprache seiner Mit-

menschen. Seine Leidenschaft, sie zu imi

tieren, ist Ausdruck fiir und Kampf gegen

diese Verstrickung, zugleich auch Grund

und Folge jenes immer wachen Schuldbe-

wufltseins, in dem allein der Damon sein

Element hat.66

Kraus's citing exhibits "the paradox of subjectivication." It is a guilt-laden ac- knowledgment of his necessary Verstikkung in the very linguistic order he fights to break out of. Demonic citation is figured here as an obsessive acknowledging of the compulsory citation that attends any lin- guistic act, and that shapes identity where identity is conceived of as a linguistic per- formance. The demonic obsession of Kraus's citing emerges out of a painful awareness of the necessity of citing-pain- ful because he feels that his immediate lin- guistic environment is fundamentally cor- rupt. In ruthlessly deconstructingit, Kraus is subjecting himself, his self, to the same treatment. Hence, again, the "geschun- denes Fleisch" all over Die Fackel.

Let us leave aside, for the sake of argu- ment, a survey of the many differences between Benjamin and Butler. That two sa- lient moments of confluence exist, identity as a linguistic performance and the idea of compulsory citation, is, I hope, clear by now. Butler's theoretical vocabulary might help us to conceptualize the literary prompting Benjamin gives us to investigate the relation among identity, style, and cita- tion in Kraus's writing.

We might begin this investigation by asking: Which linguistic practices does Kraus cite? Which linguistic practices, which linguistically constructed identities, does Kraus simultaneously identify with and seek to expose, to tear open, to tear apart? For it is here that the question of Kraus's Jewish identity is juxtaposed, in Benjamin's text, with a discussion of Kraus's performative style. Benjamin's re- marks on the performativity of Kraus's writing begin with his lone allusion to Kraus's anti-Semitism. Benjamin adduces the well-known Kraus aphorism,"Antisemitismus heil3tjene Sinnesart, die etwa den zehnten Teil der Vorwiirfe aufbeitet, die der Borsenwitz gegen das eigene Blut parat hat."G7 Benjamin goes on immedi- ately to address Kraus's brutal technique of self-disclosure and his compulsive citing of discourses with which he feels himself to be complicitous. The implication is that Kraus's anti-journalistic-journalism style Summer 1999

is a complex, compulsive process of identi- fication with and opposition to "das eigene Blut," that is, thejournalistic essayism that was supposed to function as a visible marker of Jewish identity in the Vienna of his day.68 Now let me emphasize, once again, the difference between my approach to the question of Jewish writing versus attempts to categorize journalism as an es- sentially Jewish genre.69 From Wagner through Weininger, Thedor Gomperz, and Moritz Goldstein, anti-Semites and "self- hating" Jews, as well as moderate and vi- talist Zionists, had claimed that journalis- tic writing corresponded to, or was a func- tion of, particularly Jewish cognitive capabilities. Jews lack elemental creativity. Mimicry is their compensation-hence their journalistic acumen. As Goldstein puts it, "Warum gibt es soviel jiidische Journalisten? Ein Journalist ist ein Spiegel: die Bilder des Tages auffangen und zuriickwerfen, das ist seines we sen^."^^ In contrast, when Adorno writes that the es- say was made to wear the yellow star, he is not simply lamenting the ghettoization of the essay within the German academy. He is also implying that the labeling of the es- say as Jewish is problematic, and even analogous to the hostile imposition of Jew- ish identity on people suspected of having Jewish descent.71 I have tried to take Adorno's caveat to heart, and I am cer- tainly not arguing that Jews possess an in- herited inclination to write essayistically. My point, rather, is that the essay was made into a marker of Jewish identity, as the cases of Kuh and Goldstein suggest, and that the strong association between the es- say and Jewish identity functioned as a cul- tural pressure which influenced the devel- opment of Kraus's essayism.

I have, in addition, been hazarding the claim that embedded somewhere in Ben- jamin's essay is the idea that Kraus's style represents a reckoning with the problem of Jewish identity. By identifying with dis- courses that were marked as Jewish while establishling a relentlessly particular style,

by developing a journalism beyond journal- ism, Kraus broadened the formal parame- ters of the discourses in terms of which Jewish identity was in large part defined in fin-de-si6cle Vienna. The problem of Jewish identity should therefore be seen as a cultural historical factor which helped shape the development of Kraus's particu- lar brand of literary essayism.

Indeed, it is important to note that the discursive markers of Jewish identity were not passively accepted by everyone except Kraus, but rather were passionately de- bated. Jewish identity, in fact, tended to get redefined in terms of modes of writing. Consider, for example, Martin Buber's push for a language of authenticity, or Lud- wig Strauss's injunction to write in He- brew. My claim is that Kraus's writing, where it parodies Buber's or Werfel's ex- pressionist ductus, can be read as a critical intervention into such discussions about Jewish identity, even if Kraus seldom ad- mits to having made such a move.

Kraus's writing as a response? We ap- pear to have avoided essentialism only to succumb to psychologism. Kraus the self- hater flees from Judaism and constructs a linguistic identity in opposition to the Jew- ish press. Benjamin's argument is, I think, appreciably more complex than a flat psy- chologism. According to Benjamin, Kraus's behavior may be, as we have seen, obses- sive, or driven by Kraus's recognition of its compulsory character, but it is not irra- tional. Indeed, Benjamin attributes to Kraus an awareness of what Butler calls the paradox of subjectivication, which, again, "is that the subject who would resist such norms is itself enabled, if not pro- duced, by such norms." Kraus is schuldbewupt, conscious of his complicity. The "Dhon" identifies with Jewish writing. Hence the identificatory aspect of Kraus's relation to Judaism (Benjamin's reading of Kraus is the only one I have encountered that can account for its double-valence, its back and forth movement between identi- fication and attack). And, in fact, Kraus himself plays with the parallels between his ambiguous aesthetic identity as a jour- nalist, arguing journalistically that he is beyond journalism, and displaying his ambiguous Jewish identity as a Jew who exhibits Jewish characteristics (by freight- ing his claim with cabbalistic references, it will be recalled), while claiming not to ex- hibit Jewish characteristics. Kraus does not blindly bash writings associated with Jewish identity. Again, he self-consciously identifies with such discursive practices and acknowledges their constitutive role in the construction of his own identity, even as he mobilizes all his polemical force against them.

We are now ready to re-read Benjamin's enigmatic assertion: "Das Bild der gott- lichen Gerechtigkeit als Sprache-ja in der deutschen selber-zu verehren, das ist der echt jiidische Salto mortale, mit dem er [Kraus] den Bann des Dhons zu sprengen sucht." If the demonic in Kraus's relation to language is his complicity with journal- istic norms that were crucial for the con- struction of Austro-Jewish identity, then his attempt "to break the spell of the de- mon" may have to do to with a desire to shatter these norms and the limits they im- posed on Jewish identity. This act is a "death-defying leap" because it entails a moment of self-negation: Kraus's own identity is intricately imbricated with the linguistic norms he seeks to blow open. It is Jewish (if not authentically Jewish) be- cause it questions Austro-Jewish identity from the inside, through a complex process of identification and negation, reinforcing and rejecting and parodying and pushing the discursive markers of Jewish identity toward a new openness.


1Cf. Theodor Lessing, Der judische Selbsthap (Berlin: Judischer Verlag, 1930) 43; Anton Kuh, Der Affe Zarathustras (Vienna: J. Deibler, 1925); Wilma Abeles Iggers, Karl Kraus: A Viennese Critic of the Twentieth Cen- tury (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967) 171-91; Walter Kaufmann, "On Karl Kraus ," The New York Review of Books 20 (August 9, 1973); Sander Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred: Anti-Semitism and the Hidden Language ofthe Jews (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UF: 1986) 230-43. Gilman's very informative account of Kraus is somewhat more balanced than I often make it out to be. Toward the end of it, Gilman poignantly stresses Kraus's disdain for the Na- zis and his productive identification with Jew- ish culture.

2Leopold Liegler, Karl Kraus und sein Werk (Vienna: R. Lanyi, 1920) 87.

3Karl Kraus, Die letzten Tage der Mensch- heit. Tragodie in fiinf Akten mit Vorspiel und Epilog, ed. Christian Wagenknecht (FrankfurtN: Suhrkamp, 1986) 194.

4Die Fackel32 (1900): 22.

5Kraus, "Wehr und Wucher," Weltgericht I, ed. Christian Wagenknecht (Frankfurtm: Suhrkamp, 1988) 207-26.

6Die Fackel40 (1913): 389-90.

7Shortly before Easter in 1899, Leopold Hilsner, a shoemaker's apprentice in Polna, near the Bohemian-Moravian border, was ac- cused of murdering a Christian girl for her blood. He was condemned to death, but the sentence was later commuted to lifelong im- prisonment.

%f. Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm, "Houston Stewart Chamberlain und Karl Kraus. Ein Be- richt uber ihren Briefwechsel," Zeitgeschichte

10.11 (1983): 405-34.

gTheodor W Adorno, "Sittlichkeit und Kriminalitat," Noten zur Literatur, ed. Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurtw: Suhrkamp, 1989)

371. 1°Adorno 371. "Walter Benjamin, "Karl Kraus,"Illumi

nationen: Ausgewahlte Schriften, ed. Siegfried Unseld (Frankfurtw: Suhrkamp, 1977) 367.

12Erich Heller, In the Age of Prose: Literary and Philosophical Essays (New York: Cam- bridge U F: 1984) 92.

13Adorno 375.

14Adorno 374.

15Kraus, "Er ist doch e Jud," Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie, ed. Christian Wagenknecht (Frankfurtw: Suhrkamp, 1989)


lGKraus, "Der Prozess von Leoben," Sittlichkeit und Kriminalitat ed. Christian Wagen- knecht (Frankfurtm: Suhrkamp, 1987) 117.

l7Kraus, "Die neue Art des Schimpfens," LiteraturundLuge, ed. Christian Wagenknecht (Frankfurtw: Suhrkamp, 1987) 313.

18Kraus, "Er ist doch e Jud" 327.

lgKraus 329.

20Kraus 328.

21Kraus 329.

22Kraus 329.

23Kraus's politics cannot be subsumed un- der a single sign. His alliances shifted through- out his career and traversed the political spec- trum (from left to right) before he broke them all off in the wake of the DollfuB debacle. But there were also constants. While no revolution- ary, Kraus maintained a resolutely critical stance toward the social and cultural effects of the capitalist system and toward their arch- capitalist progenitors.

241n this context, it is interesting to note that in "Karl Kraus," Benjamin quotes Marx's Zur Judenfrage at length. Benjamin does so to shed light on the nature of Kraus's critical (anti-bourgeois), truly humanist humanism (373). But it is hard not to sense some excess in this move. After all, Marx develops his cri- tique of humanism elsewhere as well. And in- deed, Zur Judenfrage is not the first work one generally consults when looking pithy formu- lations of Marx's position on humanism. By pointing to affinities between Zur Judenfrage and Kraus, Benjamin may be suggesting that Kraus's animus toward Jewish capitalism is first and foremost an animus toward capital- ism, as was Marx's. For Gilman, of course, making manifest the connections between Marx and Kraus only reinforces the argument that the latter is self-hating, since Marx is also framed in his Jewish Self-Hatred as an avatar of self-hatred.

25Kraus's formulation "dank ihrer ijberre- dungsgabe" might plausibly be read as a mo- ment of self-implication. For Kraus was known precisely as the possessor of an epic ijberredungsgabe, even if he conceived of his linguis- tic gifts in very different terms.

26Kraus, "Heine und die Folgen," Untergang der Welt durch schwarze Magie, ed. Chris- tian Wagenknecht (Frankfurtw: Suhrkamp, 19891, 185-210. Kraus in fact defends Heine against his anti-Semitic antagonists or, more specifically, against the rabidly anti-Heine anti-Semite Adolf Bartels. Earlier, during the wave of anti-Heine literature generated by the Heine monument controversy of 1906, Kraus had countered anti-Semitic offensives against Heine by ridiculing "the Germanic endurance with which Bartels relieves himself at Heine's grave." Cf. Leo A. Lensin, "Heine's Body, Hei- ne's Corpus. Sexuality and Jewish Identity in Karl Kraus's Literary Polemics against Hein- rich Heine," The Jewish Reception of Heinrich Heine, ed. Marc Gelber (Tubingen: Max Nie- meyer Verlag, 1992) 95-112, especially 99-101.

27Gilman 240.

28To be sure, Kraus does draw some, mostly subtle associations between Heine's writing and his Jewishness. For a differentiated and erudite discussion of this aspect of "Heine und die Folgen," cf. Lensing 102 ff.

29Cf. Lensing, "Heine's Corpus."

30Die Fackel 199 (1906).

31Kraus, "Er ist doch e Jud" 331.

32Gilman 233.

33Kraus 331.

34According to Weininger, Jews could be clever, but not "original," i.e., truly creative. Otto Weininger, Geschlecht und Charakter: Eine Prinzipielle Untersuchung (Leipzig and Vienna: Wilhelm Baumuller, 1909) 430 ff.

35Kraus, "Literatur oder man wird da sehn," Dramen, ed. Christian Wagenknecht (FrankfurtM: Suhrkamp, 1988) 52.

36Theodor Lessing, Der judische Selbsthap (Berlin: Judischer Verlag, 1930) 21. It is in fact Lessing who called Kraus "das leuchtendeste Beispiel vom judischen Selbsthal3" (27).

37Kraus, "Er is doch e Jud" 329.

38Kraus 333.

39As Leo Lensing points out, in the final lines of "Er ist doch e Jud" Kraus also seems to identify with the cabbalistic tradition. Here Kraus maintains that it could be a Jewish char- acteristic to destroy a double number of Die Fackel because he discovered "a question mark grimacing at the world instead of a rod of chas- tisement threatening it." Letters as sensuous, "motivated" signs, the absolute importance of each mark on the page, both thoughts, are, as Kraus makes clear, central to his own writing. Leo Lensing writes in Sander Gilman and Jack Zipes (eds.), The Yale Handbook of Jewish Cul- ture in Germany 1096-1996 (New Haven: Yale UI: 1997) 313-21: "Karl Kraus writes 'He's a Jew after All,' one of the few texts in which he directly confronts his Jewish identity and sug- gests how it has affected his satirical writing."

40Kraus 330.

41Kraus 329.

42Kraus 330.

43Kraus 329.

44Kraus 330.

45Kraus 339. Kraus's insights into the self- perpetuating mechanisms of mass media or the "tyranny of the phrase," to use Kraus's own terminology, anticipated and indeed influenced the Frankfurt School's theory of "the culture industry."

46Heller 242.

47Kraus 336.

48Kraus, "Sehensucht nach aristokratischen Umgang," Untergang fur Welt durch schwarze Magie, ed. Christian Wagenknecht (Frankfurtw: Suhrkamp, 1989) 33541.

49We, however, can explain these thinkers' reluctance to mention Kraus's anti-Semitic tendencies by underlining the polemical na- ture of the debate on Kraus. As mentioned ear- lier, Adorno is defending Kraus against un- named postwar critics who are out to marginalize him, Kraus, as a rabidly irrational self-hating Jew. Benjamin's essay on Kraus ap- peared, significantly enough, in the same year (1930) as Lessing's study Der jiidische Selbsthap and might be viewed, on some level, as a rejoinder. We might also note that Ben- jamin directly counters Leopold Liegler's no- tion that "Kraus had to overcome Judaism in order to be free."

50Kraus, "Ein Brief," Literatur und Luge, ed. Christian Wagenknecht (Frankfurtm: Suhrkamp, 1987) 313.

51Kraus, "Sehensucht nach aristokratischen Umgang," 337.

52Kraus 338.

53Kraus 339.

54Kraus 337.

55Robert S. Wistrich and Sigurd Paul Scheichl also deserve to be mentioned here. Wistrich and Scheichl contextualize Kraus's anti-Semitisim very effectively, demonstrating that, and how, similiar rhetoric was employed by writers who are seldom associated with anti- Semitism. They demonstrate, in other words, that many of Kraus's remarks about '3ewish capital" were throwaway phrases that were not necessarily taken seriously by his audience. The problem here is that by taking this tack the authors wind up with very little to say about Kraus's positive contribution to discus- sions of Jewish identity. Their contribution is to point out what Kraus did not say. Their analysis of what he did say does not penetrate beneath a descriptive survey of his statements about Jews and Jewish culture. Robert S. Wis- trich, "Prophets of Doom: Karl Kraus and Otto Weininger," The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph (London and New York: Oxford U E: 1990) 497-536; Sigurd Paul Scheichl, "The Contexts and Nuances of Anti-Jewish Lan- guage: Were All the 'Antisemites' Antisemites?" Jews, Antisemitism, and Culture in Vienna, ed. Ivar Oxaal, Michael Pollak, and Gerhard Botz (London and New York: Rout- ledge and Kegan Paul, 1987) 89-110.

56Harry Zohn, "Karl Kraus: 'Judischer Selbsthasser' oder 'Erzjude'?" Modern Aus- trian Literature 8 (1975): 20-37.

57Cf. Michael Andre Bernstein, Foregone Conclusions: Against Apocalyptic History

(Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California E: 1994) 1-42.

58John Theobald, The Paper Ghetto: Karl Kraus and Anti-Semitism (New York: Peter Lang, 1996).

591rhile this undertaking is strangely over- due and therefore a necessary corrective, its theoretical stakes are not particularly high. If Kraus's writing were not so difficult and resis- tant to interpretation, and if his irony did not require contextualization, my project would be largely descriptive. For what I have done, for the most part, is simply to chart the multiva- lent trajectory of a key theme. I have remained largely on the surface, documenting what rea- sonably astute and fair-minded readers of Kraus will have known already, namely, that a coherent position cannot be extracted from Kraus's irreducibly aporetic utterances about Jews and Jewish identity. These explicit utter- ances tell us that Kraus is neither a self-hating Jew nor a "great" champion of Jewish culture, but rather that he is both.

6oScholem writes: "Ich hatte mir schon lange Gedanken uber die Herkunft des Stils von Kraus aus der hebrzschen Prosa und Dichtung des mittelalterlichen Judentums ge- macht [...I." Walter Benjamin. Die Geschichte einer Freundschaft (FrankfurtM: Suhrkamp, 1975) 136. Since Kraus was unfamiliar with the traditions in question and could not read Hebrew, the obvious implication is that Kraus's style is an inherited trait. According to Berthold Viertel, Buber regarded Kraus's phi- losophy of language as "Hasidic" in its inten- sity. Cf. Steven Aschheim, Brothers and Stran- gers: The East European Jew in German and German Jewish Consciousness, 1800-1923 (Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1982) 132.

61For recent readings of Benjamin's essay on Kraus cf. Jan Philipp Reemtsa, "Der Bote. Walter Benjamin uber Karl Kraus," Der Vor- gang des Ertaubens nach dem Urknall (Zurich: Haffmans, 1995) 7-23; and C.J. Thornhill, Walter Benjamin and Karl Kraus: Problems of a 'Wahlverwandschaft' (Stuttgart: Verlag Hans- Dieter HeinzIAkademischer Verlag, 1996).

G2Benjamin, "Karl Kraus" 364.

63Butler focuses on gender identity but suggests that racial or ethnic identity may be constituted in similar, though not identical, ways.

64J~dithButler,Bodies ThatMatter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex" (New York: Rout- ledge, 1992) 15.

65Butler 15.

@Benjamin 383.

67Benjamin 364. Here, we should note, Benjamin cites Kraus incorrectly. Kraus's aphorism actually reads: "Antisemitismus heat jene Sinnesart, die etwa den zehnten Teil der Vorwiirfe aufbeitet und ernst meint, die der Borsenwitz gegen das eigene Blut parat hat." (my emphasis). Karl Kraus, Aphorismen, ed. Christian Wagenknecht (FrankfurtM: Suhr- kamp, 1986) 361. Benjamin's omission does not distort the meaning of the aphorism and was probably not done deliberately.

68At the same time, Benjamin counterbal- ances the exculpatory character of his essay not only by calling Kraus a Damon and an Unmensch, but also by likening him to the no- tiously anti-Semitic baroque cleric Abraham a Santa Clara. Cf. Benjamin 366.

69For a thoughtful discussion of the ques- tion: What constitutes Jewish writing? cf. Susan Handelman, Fragments of Redemption: Jewish Thought and Literary Theory in Ben- jamin, Scholem, and Levinas (Bloomington and Indianapolis: U of Indiana F: 1991) 12-13.

70Moritz Goldstein, "Deutsch-jiidischer Parnal3," Die Kunstwart 25.11 (1912) 288. The Zionist Goldstein may go on to contend that Jews could be something other than mirrors if put into a more propitious context. Here too, however, he is close to anti-Semities like Wag- ner who invoked Jewish rootlessness, that is, Jewish history rather than '3ewish biology," to explain the Jews' putative lack of authentic creativity.

71Adorno, "Der Essay als Form," Noten zur Literatur, ed. Rolf Tiedermann (FrankfurtN: Suhrkamp, 1989) 33.

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