The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York

GC Events

October 30 – Jewish Intellectuals In The Twentieth Century: Erich Auerbach-Isaiah Berlin-Walter Benjamin

Friday, October 30, 2015,

4:00-6:30pm, Room  4406

The Graduate Center, CUNY


The three twentieth-century Jewish intellectuals that are the subject of this colloquium were engaged in a variety of scholarly styles and outlooks, often at odds with each other and their own backgrounds.  Martin E. Jay and Jane O. Newman take contrasting approaches to the intellectual styles adopted by these figures in their engagement with the twentieth century. Martin Jay addresses Berlin’s distaste for the “the terrible twisted” thought of Central Europeans like Benjamin, and appeals instead to divergent, antipathetic but interdependent sensibilities that characterize scholarly relationships. Jane O. Newman offers a new reading of the work of the German-Jewish Romanist and Comparatist, Erich Auerbach in dialogue with the Catholic and Protestant versions of Existentialism emerging in Germany in the inter-war years that influenced other German-Jewish thinkers as well, including Hans Jonas and Hannah Arendt. Richard Wolin will serve as respondent. Martin Elsky will moderate.


Martin E. Jay is Ehrman Professor of History at UC-Berkeley.  He is the distinguished author of numerous books on twentieth-century intellectual history with interest in German critical theory. He is perhaps most responsible for the creation of the history of twentieth-century German intellectuals as a field in itself. His relevant books include The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-50, 2nd ed. (California, 1996); Permanent Exiles: Essays on the Intellectual Migration from Germany to America (Columbia, 1985); Adorno (Harvard, 1984); Marxism and Totality: The Adventures of a Concept from Lukács to Habermas (California, 1984).  His work has been translated into Japanese, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Turkish, Chinese, Indonesian, Greek, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, and Korean. He is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships.


Jane O. Newman is Director of European Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature at UC-Irvine.  Most recently, she is translator of Time, History, and Literature: Selected Essays of Erich Auerbach (Princeton, 2014), and is at work on a book on Auerbach and the idea of Europe. She is also author of Benjamin’s Library: Modernity, Nation, and the Baroque (Cornell, 2011); The Intervention of Philology: Gender, Learning, and Power in Lohenstein’s Roman Plays (North Carolina, 2000);  Pastoral Conventions: Poetry, Language and Thought in Seventeenth-Century Nuremberg (Johns Hopkins, 1990). She is the editor of the forthcoming Brill Companion to Renaissance and Early Modern Germany.  She serves as Vice President of the Society for German Renaissance and Baroque Literature (MLA Affiliate Organization) and has been a fellow at the  Zentrum für Kultur- und Literaturforschung( Berlin) and the Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule für literaturwissenschaftliche Studien (Berlin).


Richard Wolin is Distinguished Professor of History, Political Science and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center. Among his books, which have been translated into ten languages, are: Heidegger’s Children: Hannah Arendt, Karl Löwith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert Marcuse; The Seduction of Unreason: the Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism; and The Wind From the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution and the Legacy of the 1960s, which was recently listed by the Financial Times as one of the best books of 2012. He frequently writes on intellectual and political topics for the New Republic, The Nation, and Dissent.


Sponsored by PhD Program in Comparative Literature; The Friday Forum of the PhD Program in English; PhD Program in History; Center for Jewish Studies.