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Jewish Humor and Popular Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Budapest

  • Mary Gluck (a1)

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In hisStudy inAustrianIntellectualHistory, Robert Kann unobtrusively posed a pivotal question that continues to engage practitioners of intellectual history. Whose culture, he asked, are we talking about when we generalize about the literary, artistic, and musical products of an age? His unhesitating answer, “the culture of the select few,” reflected the dominant view of intellectual historians in 1960, the year when the book was first published. Since then, our sense of what constitutes historical relevance has expanded, and the automatic equation of culture with social and intellectual elites has eroded but has by no means disappeared.

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References

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1 Robert A. Kann, A Study in Austrian Intellectual History, from Late Baroque to Romanticism (New York, 1960).

2 See H. Stuart Hughes, Consciousness and Society: The Reorientation of European Social Thought, 1890–1930 (New York, 1958).

3 Moritz Csáky, Ideologie der Operette und Wiener Moderne: Ein Kulturhistorischer Essay zur Osterreichischen Identitat (Vienna, 1996).

4 Péter Gál Molnár, A pesti mulatók [The night life of Budapest] (Budapest, 2001).

5 Budapesti Negyed, Lap a Városról [The Budapest quarterly, a journal about the city], eds. András Gerő and Zsófia Mihancsik.

6 See Carl Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture (New York, 1980) and Péter Hanák, The Garden and the Workshop: Essays on the Cultural History of Vienna and Budapest (Princeton, 1998).

7 Ödön Salamon, “Budapest a nyugat városa” [Budapest, a western city], in A mulató Budapest [Carousing Budapest], ed. Henrik Lenkei (Budapest, 1896), 17.

8 See Theodor Adorno, The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture (London, 2001).

9 See Sigmund Freud, Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious, trans. A. A. Brill (New York, 1993); Arthur Koestler, The Act of Creation (New York, 1964); Henri Bergson, Laughter: An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic, trans. Cloudesley Brereton and Fred Rothwell (New York, 1914).

10 Endre Nagy, A kabaré regénye [The story of the cabaret] (Budapest, 1958), 147.

11 “La Vie de Budapest—Les cafés-concert,” in Journal de Budapest, 22 December 1901.

12 Porzó [Adolf Ágai], Utazás Pestről—Budapestre, 1843–1907 [Travel from Pest to Budapest, 18431907] (Budapest, 1998), 408.

13 For a discussion of Jewish jokes and comic weeklies, see Géza Buzinkay, “The Budapest Joke and Comic Weeklies as Mirrors of Comic Assimilation,” in Budapest and New York: Studies in Metropolitan Transformation, ed. Thomas Bender and Carl E. Schorske (New York, 1994).

14 Csicseri Bors [Adolf Ágai], “A ‘Borsszem Jankó’ története” [The history of the “Borsszem Jankó”], Borsszem Jankó, 10 April 1887.

15 For a similar argument made about the jargon theaters of Berlin, see Marline Otte, Jewish Identities in German Popular Entertainment, 1890–1933 (Cambridge, 2006).

16 For the concept of counterdiscourse, see Richard Terdiman, Discourse/Counter-Discourse: The Theory and Practice of Symbolic Resistance in Nineteenth-Century France (Ithaca, NY, 1985).

17 Aladár Komlós, Magyar-Zsidó szellemtörténet a reformkortól a holocaustig [Hungarian Jewish intellectual history from the Age of Reform to the Holocaust], 2 vols. (Budapest, 1997), 2:54.

18 Martin Grotjahn, Beyond Laughter (New York, 1957), 22–23.

19 See Michael Rogin, Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot (Berkeley, 1996); Ted Merwin, In Their Own Image: New York Jews in Jazz Age Popular Culture (Rutgers, 2006).

20 Emil Dacsó, “Orfeumok és chantanteok” [Orpheums and cafes chantatnt], in A mulató Budapest [Carousing Budapest], ed. Henrik Lenkei, (Budapest, 1896).

21 Molnár, A pesti mulatók, 202. See also ibid.

22 Nagy, A kabaré regénye, 250.

23 See Sander Gilman, The Jew's Body (New York, 1991).

24 See Rhonda Garelick, Rising Star: Dandyism, Gender, and Performance in the Fin de Siècle (Princeton, 1998).

25 Adolf Ágai to Mari Jászai, 25 Janaury 1902, Orsz. Széchényi Könyvtár, Szinháztört. Osztálya 1950, No. 4347.

26 Homi K. Bhabha, “Joking Aside: The Idea of a Self-Critical Community,” foreword to Modernity, Culture and “the Jew,” ed. Bryan Cheyette and Laura Marcus (Cambridge, 1998), xvii.

27 See Mary Gluck, “The Budapest Flâneur: Urban Modernity, Popular Culture, and the ‘Jewish Question’ in Fin-de-Siècle Hungary” in Jewish Social Studies 10, no. 3 (2004), 2–22.

28 Molnár Gál, A pesti mulatók, 186–87.

29 Ibid., 7.

30 “Introduction,” Mulatók Lapja [The journal of carousers], 26 January 1890.

31 Porzó, Utazás Pestről—Budapestre, 404.

32 Endre Nagy, A kabaré regénye (Budapest, 1958), 99.

33 Ibid., 219.

34 Dacsó, “Orfeumok es chantanteok,” 300.

35 Ferencz Herczeg, “Zsúrok es zsúrlátogatók” [Salons and their visitors], in A mulató Budapest, ed. Henrik Lenkei, (Budapest, 1896), 146–47.

36 “A mulatás művészete” [The art of carousing], in Mulatók Lapja, 16 February 1890.

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