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Theatrical LiberalismJews and Popular Entertainment in America$
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Andrea Most

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814708194

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814708194.001.0001

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Jews, Theatricality, and Modernity

Jews, Theatricality, and Modernity

Chapter:
(p.15) 1 Jews, Theatricality, and Modernity
Source:
Theatrical Liberalism
Author(s):

Andrea Most

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814708194.003.0001

Throughout the twentieth century, American Jews were instrumental in the development of the major industries and entertainment forms that provided mass culture to a majority of Americans: Broadway, Hollywood, the television and radio industries, stand-up comedy, and the popular music industry have all been deeply influenced by the activity of Jews. However, this close connection between Jews and entertainment represented a radical departure from traditional Jewish attitudes toward the theater. This chapter explores why, for centuries, Jews were one of the few European cultures without any official public theatrical tradition. It looks at how the particular historical conditions of Jewish modernity in Europe eventually led Jews to become intimately involved with the theater. Finally, it examines the history of interpretation of the biblical story of Jacob and Esau in order to understand the ways in which Jewish thinkers across the ages have responded to the morally ambiguous aspects of theatricality itself, a mode which encompasses both acting on the stage and performance in everyday life.

Keywords:   American Jews, popular entertainment, popular culture, theatrical tradition, Jewish modernity, theater, Jewish thinkers

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