Cultural Agents and Cultural Interference: The Function of J.H. Campe in an Emerging Jewish Culture

Zohar Shavit

Abstract

This paper deals with the major role played by translated literature in the emergence of a new system of books for Jewish children in the German-speaking countries at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. This role was due to the remarkable status of German culture in the eyes of the Haskala (Jewish Enlightenment movement), and to the absence of appropriate original texts which could serve the needs of the new system. As a result, translated texts were privileged in the system of Jewish children's literature, to the extent that, to the best of our knowledge, all books for children published by the Haskala in Germany were either official translations, pseudotranslations, or original texts based on existing German models.

Table of contents

The fact that in the German-speaking countries, books for Jewish children were written and published regularly over hundreds of years has been almost unknown. Until recently research has not dealt systematically with these texts, failing, in fact, to acknowledge their very existence. Thanks to a research project carried out by the Institut fur Jugendbuchforschung at Universität Frankfurt and the School of Cultural Studies at Tel Aviv University, in the years 1990–1995, we have been able to recover a large portion of the corpus of books for Jewish children and youth in the German-speaking countries, and to get hold of more than one third of the texts themselves.

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