Alexander Alon

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Visiting Research Fellow 2020-21

Alexander Alon is a visiting postdoctoral research fellow at the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center for German-Jewish Literature and Cultural History. His research interests lie in the interrelationship of science and aesthetics in modern European-Jewish cultures' both nationalist and internationalist aspirations. 

Alexander studied German Literature, Popular Cultures Studies and Comparative Literature at the Universities of Zurich and Tel Aviv and did his PhD at ETH Zurich at the Professorship for Literature and Cultural Studies while being a member of the doctoral program at the Graduate Center »History of Knowledge« at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. Alexander was a project collaborator in the Swiss National Science Foundation-project "The Knowledge of Zionism" and a scientific collaborator in the „Scientific Edition of Louis Ginzberg's 'Legends of the Jews‘”, a visiting doctoral fellow at the Rosenzweig Center as well as a scientific assistant at ETH Zurich. His research profited from funding by the SNSF and ETHZ.

His dissertation, which is currently being turned into a book, analyses the phenomenon of aesthetisation in an early form of Zionism, the so-called political Zionism which was propagated by Theodor Herzl. It aims at showing that by focusing on its aesthetics the epistemological problems and the problems of scientific theory within political Zionism become apparent, thereby correcting a materialistic, mechanistic and natural-scientific as well as functionalistic self-image of the Zionist Organisation, which has been purported, until recent scholarship, under the rubrum of "technocracy" (Derek Penslar). The dissertation shows that political Zionism nominally disavowed – humanist – questions of Jewish self-understanding while at the same time reflecting them by means of aesthetic mediatisation. 


Posdoc Project
The postdoc project "Poetics and the Science of Aggada as Critique of Jewish Translation: Louis Ginzberg's 'Legends of the Jews.’" builds upon Alexander's interest in the Jewish reception of German neohumanist cultures. The project analyses the poetic and scientific practice of a classic text of Jewish-US-American literature and scholarship: Louis Ginzberg's "Legends of the Jews" which was published between 1909 and 1929. Despite its obvious American publishing history, the 'Legends' can be seen as the result of a translation of German-Jewish traditions of literature and the humanities. The postdoc-project will present a case study towards an ampler history on practice and theory of modern European-Jewish aggadic literature.

Selected Publications

  • "Zionism's Ethnographic Knowledge: Leo Motzkin's and Heinrich York-Steiner's Narratives of Palestine (1898-1904)." In: Gabriella Safran & Andreas Kilcher (Hgg.): Writing Jewish Cultures: Paradoxes in Ethnography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press 2016, S. 235-250.
  • "Deutsch-jüdische Literatur und die aggadische Erzählliteratur." In: Horch, Hans Otto (Hg.): Handbuch der deutsch-jüdischen Literatur. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter 2016, S. 463-478.