Winged Words: Benjamin, Rosenzweig, and the Life of Quotation


This is the first book to explore the role of quotation in modern Jewish thought. Weaving back and forth from Benjamin to Rosenzweig, the book searches for the recovery of concealed and lost meaning in the community of letters, sacred scripture, the collecting of books, storytelling, and the life of liturgy. It also explores how the legacy of Goethe can be used to develop new strata of religious and Jewish thought. We learn how quotation is the binding tissue that links language and thought, modernity and tradition, religion and secularism as a way of being in the world.

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Benjamin E. Sax is the Jewish Scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian, Jewish Studies in Baltimore. He is an experienced professor, university administrator, scholar, award-winning teacher, public speaker, and practitioner and facilitator of interreligious dialogue. Before arriving at the ICJS, Sax was director of the Malcolm and Diane Rosenberg Program in Judaic Studies and the founding faculty principal at the West Ambler Johnston Residential College at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. Sax holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (BA, Social Thought and Political Economy), the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (MA, Religious Studies), and the University of Chicago (Ph.D., History of Judaism). He has published on topics relating to Jewish philosophy, German-Jewish history and culture, Jewish-Christian relations, and interreligious dialogue.


1 The Life of Quotation
 1 The Life of Quotation
 2 Phenomenology?
 3 Psychology or Archive Fetish?
 4 Just More Derrida?

2 Myth, Language, and the Origins of Tradition
 1 Innerlichkeit and New-Old Beginnings
 2 Martin Buber and Innerlichkeit
 3 Innerlichkeit and the Hebrew Bible
 4 Buber’s Hebrew Humanism
 5 Walter Benjamin’s Challenge to Buber
 6 Benjamin and Nietzsche
 7 Benjamin and Goethe
 8 The Challenge of Lebensphilosophie
 9 Franz Rosenzweig’s New Thinking
 10 Between Bildung and Anti-Bildung
 11 Rosenzweig and Nietzsche
 12 Conclusion

3 Quotation as Heterodoxy: Walter Benjamin’s Karl Kraus
 1 Benjamin’s Essay “Karl Kraus”
 2 The Ur-Kraus: Benjamin’s Early Move to Language and Origin
 3 Jewish Negation as Jewish Quotation: a Prolegomenon to Jewish Secular Identity
 4 The Life of Quotation in Benjamin’s Kraus

4 Quotation as Pedagogy: Franz Rosenzweig’s Goethe
 1 The Jewish Goethekenner
 2 Using Goethe’s Poetics Hermeneutically: Quotation in the Introduction of the Star
 3 From a Post-Goethekenner to a Premodern
 4 Das Geflügelte Wort (the Winged Word): Rosenzweig’s Life of Quotation

5 Quotation, Experience, and the Secularizing of Life
 1 Experience, Language, and Life
 2 Quotation, Experience, and Hermeneutics
 3 The Arcades Project: Quotation, Montage, and the Medium of Reflection
 4 Jewish Thought, Quotation, and the Secularizing of Life

6 Quotation and the Liturgical Life
 1 Jewish Books, Jewish Worlds, Jewish Words
 2 Biblical Words, Living Words, Winged Words
 3 Biblical Words, Dialogue, Commentary
 4 From the Star to Liturgy to Life: a Forgotten Interlocutor
 5 Rosenzweig’s Experience with Ismar Elbogen
 6 The Influence of Elbogen’s Der jüdische Gottesdienst on Rosenzweig’s Star
 7 From Scholarship on Liturgy to Philosophy and the Future of Judaism
 8 Liturgy as Polemic and Propaedeutic: Petition and Temptation
 9 Rosenzweig’s Application of a Jewish Liturgical Hermeneutic
 10 Into Life

Conclusion: The Life of Quotation and the (Re)Invention of Tradition

Primary Sources
The most likely readers will be scholars, graduate students, and advanced undergraduate students in Judaic studies, German area studies, intellectual history, literary criticism, cultural studies, philosophy of religion, philosophy of language, general philosophy and theology.
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