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Abstract

This dissertation examines the circulation of films, novels, and plays about Jews in communist Czechoslovakia, focusing on the relationship between representations of Jewish persecution and new ideas about reform politics after Stalin’s death. More specifically, it follows a cultural trend—the rise, spread, and eventual decline of novels, films, and plays about Jews. It asks: what allowed for the emergence of Jewish representation in this period? What people, events, or conditions shaped the contours of this trend? Who was responsible for this growth and why? How was this movement influenced by global cultural trends? What domestic impact did the collective body of these works have? Thus, Jewish representation functions in two ways in this context. On the one hand, this dissertation looks at representations of Jews in Czechoslovak literature, film, and plays. On the other, it considers Jewish representation within the cultural milieu; in particular, the ways in which Jews interacted and engaged with non-Jews in bringing narratives of Jewish experience to a general audience. It focuses on how sympathetic portrayals of Jewish experiences in literary, cinematic and theatrical media influenced, and were influenced by political shifts and changes. What began as a way for Jewish writers and intellectuals to reclaim Jewish experiences from the silencing forces of Nazism and stalinism ultimately became a way for intellectuals to discuss the dangers of isolating and oppressive political systems that functioned on fear and conformism. This discourse, conducted through interpretations and commentary on Jewish narratives, was fundamentally linked to ideas about “humane socialism” that eventually became central to the Prague Spring, the reform movement that came to power in 1968.

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