M.G. Piety

Archive for December, 2010|Monthly archive page

“Hip, Hip, hurrah” Antisemitic?

In Kierkegaard and the Jews on December 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Peter Tudvad’s excellent Stadier på Antisemitismens Vej: Søren Kierkegaard og Jøderne (Stages on the way of antisemitism: Søren Kierkegaard and the Jews) is full of interesting facts. I reported already how N.F.S. Grundtvig, a pastor in the Danish Lutheran Church, was a staunch defender of the Jews. Well, I learned something else very interesting last night. The English expression “hip, hip, hurrah” is possibly of anti-Semitic origin. It seems “hep” (or “hepp”) was a cry Germans used in the herding of goats. They also used it, however, to taunt Jewish men, It’s unclear, observes Tudvad, whether this was because it was an acronym for ‘Hierosolyma est perdita’ (‘Jerusalem is lost,’ an exclamation purportedly from the Roman conquest of Jerusalem and burning of the temple in the year 70) or because the beards of Jewish men were taken to resemble goats’ beards (pp. 38-39; see also, Tudvad’s reference to Alex Bein, Die Judenfrage. Biographie eines Weltproblems [The Jewish Question: the Biography of a Global Problem], [Stuttgard, 1980], vol. 2, p. 160). This, in any case, observes Tudvad, is the description of the expression Kierkegaard would have found in his copy of Johann Samuel Ersch and Johann Gottfried Gruber’s Allgemeine Encyklopädie der Wissenschaften und Künste (General Encyclopedia of the Arts and Sciences),  2nd section, eds. Georg Hassel and Andreas Gottlieb (Leipzig, 1829), part 5, p. 361.

It seems “hep, hep” became the rallying cry not only of the mob violence that broke out against Jews across Germany in 1819, but also the violence that broke out against Jews in Denmark in the same year.

Danish-English Dictionary from Kierkegaard’s Time-Now Online!

In Resources for Kierkegaard Scholarship on December 22, 2010 at 10:45 am

The best Danish-English dictionary for Kierkegaard scholars is one I stumbled across by accident. Copenhagen is a great city for antiquarians. (The former head of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, Hans Bagger, had a shop there when I first moved there in 1990.) Every summer the various antiquarians would sell what was effectively their overstock in what they called Hollandsk bogauktioner (Dutch book auctions) in Helligåndshuset right off Strøget. I spent a large part of every summer combing through the tens of thousands of books at each of these sales. I always looked for old Danish-English dictionaries because Danish has changed a lot since Kierkegaard wrote. Even Danes complain that his Danish is so old fashioned it is hard to understand, so contemporary Danish-English dictionaries are not always terribly helpful to Kierkegaard scholars. Old bilingual dictionaries are hard to come by though, because bilingual dictionaries tend to be used until they fall apart.

I think I’d been in Denmark about seven years before I found a 19th-century Danish-English dictionary.  It was very beat up, but still, I was excited because it was from 1845, smack in the middle of the period of Kierkegaard’s authorship. Shortly after I found it, Johnny Kondrup gave a lecture at the new Søren Kierkegaard Research Center on important resources for Kierkegaard scholarship. He mentioned several Danish-English dictionaries, but not mine. I approached him after the lecture and handed him my dictionary. I asked him if he had ever seen it before. No, he said, examining it closely. He’d not seen it, but he’d heard of it. About a week later, Johnny sent me an article on the dictionary from Magazin, one of the official publications of the Royal Library. Yes, that’s right an article by the Danish lexicographer and editor of the contemporary “red” Danish-English dictionary published by Gyldendal, Jens Axelsen, on the little dictionary I had found.  The dictionary also figures prominently in Axelsen’s excellent En Rød Klassiker (A Red Classic) (Gyldendal, 1995) on the history of Gyldendal’s Danish-English dictionaries. It turned out that my little dictionary, A Danish-English Dictionary edited by J.S. Ferrall and Thorl. Gud. Repp, was the very first Danish-English dictionary that had been put together according to philologically, or lexicographically, defensible principles and that it was thus he forerunner to all the later Danish-English dictionaries.

The primary editor, Thorleifr Gudmundson Repp, was from Iceland and was apparently a gifted philologist. Being from Iceland, however, meant that he had rather a hard time at the University of Copenhagen, which hard time culminated in his being denied his degree. It seems he’d been goaded into behaving badly at his dissertation defense and that his conduct at the event was used as the excuse for denying him his degree. Nice, eh? So anyway, Thorleifr had something of an ax to grind against the Danes and ground it by writing a preface to his dictionary which is a scathing exposé of the fact that nearly all the earlier Danish-English dictionaries had been plagiarized from German-English dictionaries. This preface is a great read. Unfortunately, it was omitted from all the many subsequent editions of the dictionary, so until now, few people have had access to it.

I’d spoken with Wipf and Stock about the possibility of their publishing a facsimile of the dictionary, but doing so would have meant destroying the one copy I had in that it would have required taking it appart. I’d tried to get a second copy. When I still lived in Denmark, I’d taken the little dictionary to every antiquarian in town, but they all told me the same thing: it was impossible to get. So anyway, I kept putting off the decision of whether to destroy my one precious copy in the hope that seemed against hope that another copy would turn up.  In recent years, I’ve begun periodically to check the stock of antiquarians on line in search of another copy. I never had any luck until yesterday and what happened yesterday was not what I expected. I typed “Danish-English dictionary 1845” into Google and discovered that the dictionary had been scanned and was available on Google Books. Yes, that’s right. You can read the whole dictionary, including the wonderful preface, on line or even download it as a pdf file. Unfortunately, you can’t search it because the words are in Fraktur (though the definitions are in regular Roman type). You can page through it though, so your situation will be no worse than it would be if you had the actual physical edition. The preface, you will be pleased to hear, like the definitions, is in regular Roman type, so those of you who don’t like reading Fraktur don’t have to worry about that inconvenience if you want to read the preface.

I can’t tell you how excited I am about this discovery. It means that I don’t have to destroy the little dictionary that is so important to my work that I carry it on my person when I move from place to place. Yes it’s a “little” dictionary, a Handwörterbuch, or “pocket dictionary,” as they say. You’d have to have a pretty big pocket to accommodate it though. I’ve worked with many dictionaries and I can tell you, this one is very comprehensive. It even has a separate list of foreign words and their definitions in the back. It’s a fantastic resource for English-speaking  Kierkegaard scholars, as well as Hans Christian Andersen scholars. who, until now, if they wanted to know the real meanings of Danish words in the 19th century, had to rely on Molbech’s Danish dictionaries from 1833 and 1859, Meyer’s Fremmed Ordbog (dictionary of foreign words) and the gargantuan 28 volume Ordbog Over det Danske Sprog (dictionary of the Danish language). It’s also very frustrating to work with any of these resources if one’s command of Danish isn’t really top notch because they are all only in Danish.

Well, life just got a little easier. Go into your browser and type “Danish-English dictionary 1845” and the first hit you will see will be to the complete text of this wonderful little dictionary in Google Books.

Happy Holidays!

Kierkegaard and Antisemitism

In Kierkegaard and the Jews on December 20, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Peter Tudvad’s new book, Stadier paa Antisemitisms Vej: Søren Kierkegaard og Jøderne (Stages on the Way of Antisemitism: Søren Kierkegaard and the Jews) (Rosinante, 2010) has elicited even more controversy in the first few weeks after its appearance than did his exposure of the errors in Joakim Garff’s biography of Kierkegaard. As of last week, approximately 90 articles had been published in the Danish media on the book, some of which appeared even before the book itself. Those of you who can read Danish should check out Tudvad’s Facebook page because he has links to many of the articles there.

I’m going to assume, however, that most of you cannot read Danish, so I am going to post brief summaries of various part of the book, and comments on it, as I make my way through it. This is going to take some time, mind you, because at 500 pages (not including the notes) it’s a hefty tome. Like Tudvad’s other books, however, it is meticulously researched and completely absorbing. It also stands a very good chance of being translated into English because much of it is an account of the situation of the Jews in 19th-century Denmark and will thus be of great interest both to a broad spectrum of historical scholars and to general readers interested in Jewish history.

Tudvad has thoughtfully divided the book into chapters that can be read independently of one another, so readers interested primarily in Jewish history, or the history of antisemitism, don’t have to read the material on Kierkegaard. The chapter titles (freely translated) are as follows: “Ten Theses on Kierkegaard’s Relation to Jews and Judaism.” “The Jewish Conflict: From Literary Feud to Physical Violence,” “The Wandering Jew: Despair,” “The Perception of the Jews” (this chapter is divided into six sections that look at the theological, the historical, the political, the literary, the dramatic and the Bourgeois perspectives on Jews and Judaism), “Kierkegaard’s Jewish Acquaintances,” “Young Germany and Old Denmark,” “Abraham: The Father of Faith,”  and finally, “Offense: The Infernal Jew.”

I’m still on the part of the first chapter that deals with the literary feud. It’s disappointing to read how virulent was antisemitism in Denmark in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Christian Bastholm wrote, for example, in Den Jødiske Historie (The History of the Jews), that “the Jews are a people whose main characteristics are pride and greed,” and that “the Jews are one of those insects that can never be completely exterminated” (p. 28)

There’s lots of more encouraging information there though as well, such as the fact that N.F.S. Grundtvig was a staunch defender of the Jews. Part of the literary feud between prominent anti-Semites and defenders of the Jews involved using the Hebrew Bible against the Jews. “The method of attacking the Jews,” wrote Grundtvig however, “through the use of their own sacred books is evidence of how unchristianly the learned of our day dare to write and speak” (p. 31).

Grundtvig actually used the Hebrew Bible in defense of the claim that Jews made good citizens, pointing out, for example that Jews are commanded in Jeremiah to show loyalty to the state that gives them refuge.

“One can confidently assert,” observes Grundtvig, “that there is in general among the Jews less ungodliness and a greater sense of right and wrong, just as there is more external discipline, than there is in those assemblies that are now called ‘Christian,’ and that the Jews would thus be made worse by becoming more like ‘Christians'” (p. 32).

Kierkegaard’s father too, emerges as strong friend of the Jews. That’s all I’ll say for now though. If you can read Danish, then get your hands on a copy of the book. If you can’t, then keep checking for new posts. I’m not going to cover everything in the book, of course, but I’ll give you a sense of what it contains and, as I said, my suspicion is that you won’t have to wait too long before there will be an English translation.

Free Book Offer!

In News from Copenhagen on December 18, 2010 at 9:03 am

Check my post from Friday 12/17 for information about how to receive a free copy of Kierkegaard’s Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs!

I mentioned in my first post that Pia Søltoft is supposedly the new director of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center in Copenhagen. This is what people on the mailing list of the Søren Kierkegaard Society in the U.S. were told in an email from the Kierkegaard Library at St. Olaf College dated 5/19/10 announcing three Ph.D. research fellowships at the center starting in January of 2011. Strangely, however, Niels Jørgen Cappelørn continues to be referred to in Denmark as the director of the center, most recently in the controversy over Peter Tudvad’s new book on Kierkegaard’s antisemitism.

Piety on Kierkegaard

In Uncategorized on December 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Welcome to “Piety on Kierkegaard.” I’m the Kierkegaard scholar M.G. Piety. I’m an associate professor of philosophy at Drexel University in Philadelphia. I’m the translator of Kierkegaard’s Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs (Oxford, 2009) and the author of Ways of Knowing: Kierkegaard’s Pluralistic Epistemology (Baylor, 2010).. I moved to Denmark in the fall of 1990 on a Fulbright fellowship to work on Kierkegaard’s epistemology at the University of Copenhagen and remained there until the fall of 1998. That’s right, I lived in Denmark for eight years. That was an enormously valuable period for me as a scholar. My teaching duties were light and my access to sources was almost unlimited.

I made many important contacts when I lived in Copenhagen. I’m fortunate in that these contacts keep me up to date with what’s going on in Kierkegaard scholarship in Denmark. I’m starting this blog, in part, to allow people outside Denmark to keep up with these goings on as well. The first bit of news I have is that Pia Søltoft is supposedly the new director of the Søren Kierkegaard Research Center, even though her name does not appear on their website.

I’m not going to write exclusively about what’s going on in Denmark though, I’m also going to post information about my books on Kierkegaard and other books that I think would be of interest to Kierkegaard scholars.

Corrections to Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs

In Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs on December 17, 2010 at 11:43 am

I’ve gotten several very nice fan emails from people who like my new translations of Kierkegaard’s Repetition and Philosophical Crumbs (Oxford, 2009). I appreciate those emails, so if you like these translations, don’t hesitate to drop me a line and let me know. I’d also like to hear, however, if you have found any errors in the text. Copyediting, or typesetting, or whatever it is (it’s hard to know at what stage the errors creep in), isn’t what it used to be. I’ve already found three errors myself. I want the next printing of this volume (both books are in one volume) to be error free, so I’ve decided to send a free copy of it to anyone who emails me an error they’ve found in the text. (This is a first come, first served offer though. Only the first person to identify an error will get a free book.) That excludes, of course, the errors I have posted to this blog entry. Don’t buy the book to find the errors, unless you just really want two copies. Get it from the library. Most university libraries should have it. If your library doesn’t, request that they purchase it. Then read it and let me know if you find an error. I’ll send you a free copy of the book for every error you find.

Now to the errors I’ve already found. There are two, incredibly, on the very first page of Kierkegaard’s text. (My co-author Ed Mooney has a nice introduction that comes before Kierkegaard’s text.)

The first error in on line 7 of page 3. The text reads “what it mean” when it should, of course, read “what it meant.”

The second error is on line 9 from the bottom. The word in question is “doesn’t,” the last word on that line. It should be “does it.”

Those two errors are relatively innocuous. That is, most readers are going to spot them as printers or typesetters errors. The third error is more problematic. It’s on page 88, the third line of the actual text (i.e., not including titles/headers). The word in question is “instinct.” A kind reader named Adam Dolan alerted me to this error. The Danish word there is actually “Indsigt,” which is properly translated at “insight.” “Insight,” not “instinct.” That is important!

Look for more posts in the future. I have several planned on what is going on with Peter Tudvad’s new book on Kierkegaard’s antisemitism as well as on my forthcoming book Fear and Dissembling and another new book from Gegensatz Press that will be of interest to Kierkegaard scholars.

Happy Holidays!