The Ritual of New Creation

Jewish Tradition and Contemporary Literature

By Norman Finkelstein

Subjects: Literary Theory
Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9780791410905, 162 pages, September 1992
Hardcover : 9780791410899, 162 pages, September 1992

Table of contents



1. Postmodernism and the Jewish Literary Intellectual

2. Harold Bloom; Or, the Sage of New Haven

3. Gershom Scholem and Literary Criticism

4. The Struggle for Historicity: Cynthia Ozick's Fiction

5. Lost and Found: Hollander, Mandelbaum, and the Poetry of Exile

6. Judaism and the Rhetoric of Authority: George Steiner's Textual Homeland

7. Walter Benjamin, Messianism, and Marxism: A Midrash

8. Nostalgia and Futurity: Jewish Literature in Transition




Finkelstein examines a wide range of recent Jewish writing, including poetry, fiction, and literary criticism, in order to determine the changes such writing has undergone in its exposure to modern and postmodern conditions of culture. Featuring discussions of such figures as Gershom Scholem, Harold Bloom, George Steiner, Cynthia Ozick, and John Hollander, The Ritual of New Creation explores certain themes that recur in modern Jewish literature: the relation of the sacred to the secular in Jewish writing; the role of loss and exile; "wandering meaning" and textual transformation.

This is a book for all readers interested in modern Jewish literature, but especially for readers concerned with literary theory, the relations of text and commentary, and the fate of literary traditions in the contemporary and postmodern cultural milieu.

Norman Finkelstein is Professor of English at Xavier University. He is the author of The Utopian Moment in Contemporary American Poetry.


"In The Ritual of New Creation, Norman Finkelstein has written the best book of its kind, a book that will revolutionize not only the way Jewish intellectual life is understood in America but the way in which that grab bag of heterogeneous novels, plays, and poems that we call 'Jewish literature' will henceforth be interpreted and valued. It is not too much to call The Ritual of New Creation revolutionary, nor too much to think of it as the next absolutely required text for anyone who wants to come to grips with the issue of Jewish identity as an intellectual construction rather than as an habitual response or a nostalgic tour through memory and memorabilia.

"I find this book brilliantly argued throughout and admirably sustained. Through closely-reasoned exegesis and dialectic, Finkelstein scarcely misses a beat. He has a subtle mind that is capable of grasping not only the dialectics of self-doubt in which Harold Bloom's thought is saturated but also the nuances of shifting and flexible argument that characterize Walter Benjamin's. Moreover, his prose is fully equal to the task of understanding: supple and muscular where close reasoning is called for; taut and epigrammatic where concision and summary are demanded." — Mark Shechner, State University of New York, Buffalo