Jewish Primitivism with Samuel Spinner

In this episode, we’re joined by Sam Spinner to talk about Jewish primitivism. Listen in as we take a deep dive into primitivism in European culture, Jewish primitivism and its politics, and what it all means when we think about twentieth century Jewish life.

Samuel Spinner is the Zelda and Myer Tandetnik Assistant Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture at Johns Hopkins University. His book Jewish Primitivism, which is the starting point for our conversation today, was published in 2021 by Stanford University Press. Spinner is a co-editor of “German Jewish Cultures,” a book series published by Indiana University Press, and he also serves as an editor of the Yiddish Studies journal In Geveb.

Jewish Primitivism is a phenomenally exciting investigation of primitivism in modern Jewish literature, photography, and graphic art. Primitivism—the elevation and valorization of so-called “primitive” cultures—is an important movement in European art and culture broadly speaking, and Spinner’s book explores how primitivism manifested itself in modern Jewish culture. Thanks for listening.

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