The Golem in the Romantic Imaginary

Stefania Rutigliano


From its origins in Jewish mysticism, the Golem becomes a literary theme. By using thematic criticism, this paper traces its transition with particular reference to Romantic literature, in which the Golem can be read as the cultural image of Judaism viewed from the non-Jewish perspective. In this way, the study also deals with imagology. Originating from a Jewish context, the Golem is associated with the Orient and with Romantic exoticism, but at the same time it represents the prejudices against Jews. In the Romantic imaginary, the man of clay as an artificial creation becomes the negative hetero-stereotype of Judaism, denoting a form of anti-Semitism that divides the East in two, one good and one bad. There is therefore not only an opposition between West and East, but the East itself emerges divided.

Only in the work of Annette von Droste-Hülshoff does this more oriental East, exemplified by the man of clay join together with the West: because the Golem is used as a metaphor for the industrial word, for its dehumanization, and its fatal ruin. The Golem, a symbol of knowledge in Jewish mysticism, regains its universal value, becoming a myth of modern literature.


Golem; Critical Reception; Secularization; Antisemitism; Imagology

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Och, Gunnar, "«Gewisse Zauberbilder der jüdischen Kabbala». Zur Aneignung kabbalistischer Stoffe bei Achim von Arnim und Clemens Brentano", Kabbala und die Literatur der Romantik zwischen Magie und Trope, Eds. E. Goodman Thau - G. Mattenklott - C. Schulte, Tübingen, Niemeyer, 1999: 179-95.



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