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Title: The clash of identities - discourse, politics, and morality in the exchange of letters between Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem
Authors: Kaposi, David
Keywords: Hannah Arendt
Gershom Scholem
Eichmann Trial
Jewish identity
Discourse analysis
Discursive psychology
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: © David Kaposi
Abstract: This thesis analyses the fabled public exchange of letters that occurred between political theorist Hannah Arendt and historian of Jewish religion Gershom Scholem in 1964 following the historic trial of Adolf Eichmann and Arendt's subsequent publication of her report of the event, Eichmann in Jerusalem. The thesis covers the historical issues that form the contextual background to the exchange. It involves the introduction of the two participants as defining Jewish intellectuals of the past century, the course of the trial itself and the political and ideological problems it entailed as well as the turbulent history of the reception of Arendt's book. It is down to these four factors that guaranteed the eminence of the exchange of letters analysed in the thesis. Oft-quoted as the exchange is, there has been no proper analysis of it to this date. To accomplish this task, the thesis adopts the theoretical-methodological framework of discourse analysis in general, and the version of rhetorically oriented discursive psychology, proposed mainly in the publications of Potter and Wetherell (1987) and Billig (1996}, in particular. This approach allows the thesis to provide a fine-grained analysis of the various ways of textual construction. Firstly, the ways examined concern the significance, worth and value of the debate itself, as formulated by both of the participants. Secondly, they involve the construction of the attempt to establish definite versions of the content of the book. Thirdly, they cover the textual acts of accounting for that content, or the practice of misinterpretation of that content, respectively. What all these three aspects have in common is the positioning of the problems touched upon in a moral and political context, and ultimately approaching them in terms of the identities of the participants. In this sense, versions of the events and ways of accounting for it will not only aim at producing accurate descriptions of events but in the forms of an implied morality or politics an implied "action-plan" for the future as well. The construction of Arendt and Scholem is, hence, analysed in terms of its argumentative organisation in order to undermine the other's counterversion and to establish its own as the definite one. While, structurally, there are many similarities in the two letters, what distinguishes them is that they conceive of their objects (i.e. the text), subject positions, and political or moral values according to which they should be assessed in quite diametrically opposite ways. This thesis not only registers the various rhetorical ways the participants fashion their versions as definite ones, but also accounts for the differences in their contents.
Description: A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/13852
Appears in Collections:PhD Theses (Social Sciences)

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