The Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry

Dynamic Repetition: History and Messianism in Modern Jewish Thought

Gilad Sharvit

Book cover of "Don Issac Abravanel: An Intellectual Biography"A new understanding of modern Jewish theories of messianism across the disciplines of history, theology, and philosophy

Dynamic Repetition explores how ideals of repetition, return, and the cyclical occasioned a new messianic impulse across an important swath of late nineteenth and early twentieth century German Jewish thought. To grasp the complexities of Jewish messianism in modernity, the manuscript focuses on diverse notions of “dynamic repetition” in the works Franz Rosenzweig, Walter Benjamin, Franz Kafka, and Sigmund Freud, and their interrelations with basic trajectories of twentieth-century philosophy and critical thought.

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"The slightest gap separates the repetition of the same and repetition with a difference, but through that opening messianic redemption may somehow find its way. Or so suggested four of the most powerful Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, Rosenzweig, Kafka, Benjamin, and Freud, according to Gilad Sharvit’s arresting new reading of their legacy. Analytically rigorous, boldly imaginative, and lucidly written, Dynamic Repetition demonstrates how that most improbable of hopes is itself a revenant that refuses to die." — Martin Jay, author of Genesis and Validity: The Theory and Practice of Intellectual History

"Many have pondered the peculiar form of messianism characteristic of early 20th century German Jewish thought, but Sharvit’s elegant hypothesis is a winner. According to Sharvit, the messianic drive of Rosenzweig, Kafka, Benjamin, and Freud is neither the Hegelian progressive thrust, which strives towards the completion of history, nor the apocalyptic death-wish, which hopes for the abrupt end of the world: it is based on a dynamic repetition, conceived not as a compulsion to repeat and stabilize, but rather as an impulse to reach forward into the future and innovate. Pace the popular opinion which perceives Weimar Jewish messianism as radical and uncompromising, Sharvit proposes a more moderate view which may be summed up by the talmudic equivalent of Søren Kierkegaard, Rabbi Tarphon: 'You are not required to complete the work, but neither you are free to desist from it.'"
—Agata Bielik-Robson, University of Nottingham

About the Author

Gilad Sharvit is an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Towson University. A scholar of modern Jewish thought, Sharvit's interests lie in Jewish philosophy, German-Jewish literature and culture, German and continental philosophy, psychoanalysis and critical theory. He completed his PhD studies at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the Philosophy Department and later accepted a Diller Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Center for Jewish Studies at University of California, Berkeley (2014-16) and was a Townsend Fellow at the Townsend Center for the Humanities at University of California, Berkeley (2016-17). In 2017-18, Professor Sharvit was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Koebner Minerva Center for German History (Hebrew University) and at Tel Aviv University (Minerva Center for German History and School of Philosophy).

Professor Sharvit is the author of Therapeutics and Salvation: Freud and Schelling on Freedom (Magnes Press) (in Hebrew) and co-editor and contributing author of the volumes Freud and Monotheism: The Violent Origins of Religion with Karen Feldman (Fordham University Press, 2018) and Canonization and Alterity: Heresy in Jewish History, Thought, and Literature with Willi Goetschel (De Gruyter, 2020).