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Jörg Marquardt

PhD student at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH). 
2008–09 scientific assistant at the Chair for Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft, ETH Zurich, since 2009 assistant at the Visiting Professorship for Französische Sprache und Kultur, ETH Zurich. 
Jörg Marquardt studied German literature and modern history at the Universities of Greifswald, Tubingen, and Stellenbosch, South Africa. He graduated at Tubingen University with an M.A. thesis on the writing of Béla Balázs, the Hungarian-Jewish film critic, columnist and poet. 


Assimilation. Poetics and Semantics of a German-Jewish Narrative, 1800–1939 

Modern German-Jewish literature has produced a variety of different, very often divergent, narratives of assimilation that disclose and negotiate the transgression of Jewish tradition, the loss of identity, and the hope to participate in the majority culture. Taking into account the specific socio-historical circumstances of the Juden-Emanzipation in Middle and Eastern Europe from the Enlightenment onwards, the present PhD project focuses primarily on para-digmatic figures and on topoi of assimilation in German literature and, consequently, on their controversial interaction between affirmation and repulsion. Due to their ability to reflect oscillations between critical and progressive models and their inherent awareness of assimilation's historical discourse, the work of Joseph Roth (1894–1939) gains the quality of paradigma also in retrospect of the preceding literature dealing with the same social phenomenon. Thus, Roth's writing is central to the research project. 
According to current usage the term «assimilation» refers to a process of cultural adjustment performed by a certain minority in relation to a social majority. Long before its adaptation to the sociological sciences in the 19th century assimilation has been a common term in the context of plant physiology to describe how a biological system is preserved by means of absorption and incorporation: components of the environment are subjected to distinct needs and transformed till they have acquired an identity with the system's proper fluids and living tissue. Beside making use of a strained biological and sociological semantics, «assimilation» is also associated to a classical rhetorical operation, namely the act of comparing one thing with another. From this perspective, the term is engaged by a fresh metaphorical usage and it thereby takes part into the aesthetic discourse of adaptation and mimesis that has shaped modern German-Jewish literature to a large extent. Current research has overlooked the analysis of this transfer. It still remains to be investigated which figures, theorems, and set of questions – hereafter under new auspices – have been included into the aesthetic sphere and which function they occupy within the framework of a poetics of assimilation.