Book Launch with the Leo Baeck Institute

24 November 2011, Reception 6.15pm, Lecture  6.45pm, UCL, Gustave Tuck Lecture theatre

The Hulk, Superman, the Terminator; they are all modern popular culture echoes of the golem, that mystical, artificial man of legend, a sort of friendly Jewish version of Frankenstein’s monster. By focusing on the golem in key literary texts and films, The Golem Returns explores the role that popular culture has played in the formation of modern Jewish culture. Widely seen as an icon of authentically Jewish lore, the golem has inspired a broad range of writers across ethnic, cultural, and national affiliations in Europe, the United States, and Israel. Previous scholarly accounts of the golem have sought to distinguish between a supposedly authentic Jewish folktale tradition on the golem and its modern literary rewriting. In contrast, The Golem Returns contends that the popular culture theme of the golem as it is known today is the product of the complex cultural interaction between Jews and non-Jews since the early modern period, a process subverting stable and ethnically fixed notions of Jewish culture.

Tracing the popular culture constructions of the golem by non-Jewish and Jewish writers since the early 1800s, Cathy S. Gelbin argues that golem representations have come full circle and that popular culture, despite its subversion of clearly demarcated ethnic origins, has played an important role in the construction of modern Jewish culture. The Golem Returns will be of interest to scholars of German and Jewish Studies, as well as readers examining popular culture, film, and the illustrated novel.

Cathy Gelbin (PhD, MA in German Studies, Cornell University) is Senior Lecturer in Archive of Memory at the Moses Mendelssohn Centre for European-Jewish Studies at the University of Potsdam (1995-1998) in collaboration with Yale’s Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies. Among other functions, she is co-editor of the Leo Baeck Institute Year Book and serves on the Board of Directors and Trustees of the Leo Baeck Institute London. Recent publications include the monograph The Golem Returns: From German Romantic Literature to Global Jewish Culture (2011) and Jewish Culture in the Age of Globalization (2011, co-ed. with Sander Gilman). She is currently working on a new joint study with Sander Gilman on the image and participation of Jews in modern German-speaking cosmopolitanist thought.

This book launch is organised by the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies of the University College of London. It is held at Gustave Tuck Lecture theatre and will begin at 6.45pm. The reception opens at 6.15pm. Admission is free.