PAUL CLAUDEL AND THE JEWS: A STUDY IN AMBIVALENCE (ANTI-SEMITISM, MODERN FRENCH LITERATURE, VICHY REGIME)

JOAN PATRICIA BAUMEL, Fordham University

Abstract

A great deal has been written about the links of French symbolist poet and dramatist Paul Claudel to the Jews and Israel. Jacques Petit, a leading Claudelian scholar, has seen in Claudel a progression from a relatively passive anti-Semitism to an active defense of Israel, while Claude Andre Vigee, writing in the Encyclopedia Judaica Jerusalem has claimed that, after freeing himself from Christian prejudice, Claudel went on to develop his own unorthodox and purified vision of the Jews. This dissertation will demonstrate that Paul Claudel never completely shed his anti-Jewish background in spite of his pro-Jewish development during his lifetime.^ The focus of this study is upon the ambivalence shown toward the Jews by Paul Claudel. In an effort to explain as fully as possible his attitude, both positive and negative, regarding the Jews, the dissertation examines Claudel's background in which anti-Semitism was an all too persistent motif; his literary works in which Jews and Jewish themes played an important role; his Jewish friends, with special emphasis on his long-time artistic collaborator, the Jewish composer Darius Milhaud; his letters to Jews about Jews, including a courageous letter written to the Chief Rabbi of France during the dark days of the Vichy regime; his polemic works, which probed some of the main characters and themes of the Bible, particularly of the Old Testament; his relationship to Israel, beginning with disdain for the aspirations of the Zionists and ending with complete acceptance and support of the modern state of Israel; and finally his diaries, in which he often revealed his innermost thoughts about the Jews.^ Claudel professed to love the modern state of Israel but at the same time desired the disappearance of Israel's religion. Like many fundamentalist Christians, he believed that the Jews would eventually convert to Christianity (for Claudel it would be to Catholicism) before the end of the world. This dissertation shows that a great part of Paul Claudel's ambivalence toward the Jews must be laid squarely at the doorstep of his own particularly intransigent brand of Catholicism. ^

Subject Area

Modern literature

Recommended Citation

BAUMEL, JOAN PATRICIA, "PAUL CLAUDEL AND THE JEWS: A STUDY IN AMBIVALENCE (ANTI-SEMITISM, MODERN FRENCH LITERATURE, VICHY REGIME)" (1985). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8521403.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8521403

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