Dis­en­chant­ment: George Stein­er and Mean­ing of West­ern Civ­i­liza­tion After Auschwitz

Cather­ine Chatterley

  • From the Publisher
May 16, 2015
George Stein­er has enjoyed inter­na­tion­al acclaim as a dis­tin­guished cul­tur­al crit­ic for many years. The son of cen­tral Euro­pean Jews, he was born in France, fled from the Nazis to New York in 1940, and became a nat­u­ral­ized U.S. cit­i­zen in 1944. Through his many books, volu­mi­nous lit­er­ary crit­i­cism, and book review arti­cles pub­lished in the New York­er, the Times Lit­er­ary Sup­ple­ment, and the Guardian, Stein­er has played a major role in intro­duc­ing the works of promi­nent con­ti­nen­tal writ­ers and thinkers to read­ers in North Amer­i­ca and Great Britain. Hav­ing escaped the Nazis as a child, Stein­er vowed that his work as an intel­lec­tu­al would attempt to under­stand the tragedy of the Shoah. In Dis­en­chant­ment, Chat­ter­ley focus­es on Stein­er’s neglect­ed writ­ings on the Holo­caust and anti­semitism and places this work at the cen­ter of her analy­sis of his crit­i­cism. She clear­ly demon­strates how Stein­er’s fam­i­ly his­to­ry and edu­ca­tion, as well as the his­tor­i­cal and cul­tur­al devel­op­ments that sur­round­ed him, are cen­tral to the evo­lu­tion of his dom­i­nant intel­lec­tu­al con­cerns. It is dur­ing the 1950s and 1960s, in rela­tion to unfold­ing dis­cov­er­ies about the Nazi mur­der of Euro­pean Jew­ry, that Stein­er begins to study the effects of the Holo­caust on lan­guage and cul­ture and then ques­tions the very pur­pose and mean­ing of the human­i­ties. The first intel­lec­tu­al biog­ra­phy of George Stein­er, Dis­en­chant­ment pro­vides an invalu­able con­tri­bu­tion to lit­er­ary and cul­tur­al stud­ies, con­firm­ing his crit­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al legacy.

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