Poetics and Jewish Philosophy. Gershom Scholem Edition

The Jewish religious historian and philosopher Gershom Scholem (born in Berlin 1897, died in Jerusalem 1982) is not only considered the founder of the scientific study of Jewish mysticism, he also profoundly influenced Jewish studies as a whole. Furthermore, Scholem became widely known for the edition of his friend Walter Benjamin’s works and letters, which he published together with Theodor Adorno.

The Scholem collection held at the National Library of Israel, however, presents another important side of his work. Besides several of his own translations, theoretical reflections on translation, literary criticism, and theoretical pieces on poetry, the library also holds many of his own poems. The latter, whose importance becomes evident in his journal entries and letters, are testament to a ‘literary’ Scholem, one who has largely evaded scholarship. In general, his early works, which resulted from his attempts to become an author, his interest in linguistics, and his occupation with lamentations and elegies are all the more significant as they paved the way for his later scientific research into the Kabbalah. Scholem’s scholarly work thus must be thought of in conjunction with his theoretical and practical engagement with literature and poetics both in terms of a genealogical development and common subject matter. It is impossible to imagine the one without the other. Many of these works could only be found in remote places or had not previously been published. Thus, it was imperative to make them available to a broader public.

This critical edition adds Scholem’s Poetica to his Judaica. It is divided into six sections. In addition to original publications, the edition takes into account archival materials as well as Scholem’s published diaries and correspondence:

  • The first section presents translations of his lamentations and poetological writings. These represented preliminary stages of Scholem’s early, metaphysically-tinged explorations of the Kabbala, which turned into more historical and philological studies once Scholem had moved to Israel.
  • The second section contains translations of religious texts such as the Song of Songs, and his seminal translation of the psalms.
  • The third section focusses on his linguistic theory of Hebrew, as formulated in his early critique of modern Hebrew poetry and his translations from Yiddish texts after his relocation to Israel.
  • The fourth section concentrates on the two modern Hebrew authors Josef Agnon and Chajim Nachman Bialik. These writers were of great importance to Scholem, who translated a number of their works and analyzed their writing in numerous essays.
  • The fifth section assembles theoretical texts on literature and literary criticism, including reflections of the author’s own aesthetic framework.
  • The sixth section concludes the volume with poetry that Scholem composed over six decades. The editors' commentaries contextualize them in terms of their genesis and biography, thus making them accessible to the reader. As Scholem’s letters and diaries reveal, even poems not explicitly dedicated to a person or relationship were often implicitly addressed to specific people, or particular controversies.
Program funding through the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 2014–2016
Head researcher(s): Martin Treml, Sigrid Weigel
Associate Researcher(s): Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink, Hannah Markus


Herbert Kopp-Oberstebrink, Hannah Markus, Martin Treml, Sigrid Weigel (ed./eds.)
In collaboration with Theresia Heuer

Gershom Scholem: Poetica
Schriften zur Literatur, Übersetzungen, Gedichte

Jüdischer Verlag im Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2019, 783 pages
ISBN 978-3-633-54292-5

Hannah Markus

  • Das Editionsprojekt “Poetologie und jüdische Philosophie. Gershom Scholem-Edition.” Literarische und poetologische Schriften in Scholems Nachlass in der National Library of Israel, Jerusalem, in: Geschichte der Germanistik. Historische Zeitschrift für die Philologien 49/50 (2016), 151–153

Daniel Weidner

Sigrid Weigel

  • The Role of Lamentation for Scholems Theory of Poetry and Language, in: Ilit Ferber, Paula Schwebel (eds.): Lament in Jewish Thought. Philosophical, Theological and Literary Perspectives. Berlin, Boston: de Gruyter 2014, 185–203


Book presentation
28 May 2019 · 7.00 pm

Gershom Scholem: Poetica

W. M. Blumenthal Akademie, Fromet-und-Moses-Mendelssohn-Platz 1, 10969 Berlin, Klaus Mangold Auditorium

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Conference in Zurich
19 Oct 2017 – 21 Oct 2017

Thirty Years After. Jacob Taubes between Politics, Philosophy and Religion

Collegium Helveticum, Semper-Sternwarte, Schmelzbergstr. 25, 8006 Zürich

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Gershom Scholem Today. The Current Significance of His Work (Workshop)
10 Feb 2016 · 10.00 am

Middat ha-din and middat ha-rahamim in Scholem’s Poetics. Sources and Implications

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Seminarraum 303

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Gershom Scholem Today. The Current Significance of His Work (Lecture)
09 Feb 2016 · 7.00 pm

Menachem Lorberbaum (Tel Aviv): To Knowingly Sin. Sabbatianism and Hasidism Revisited

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

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International Workshop
11 May 2015 – 12 May 2015 · 10.00 am

Praise and Mourning. Poetics and Thought in the Early Writings of Gershom Scholem

Tel Aviv University, Gilman Building, Room 133

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Media Response

01 Feb 2020
Scholem, Gershom (2019): Poetica. Schriften zur Literatur, Übersetzungen, Gedichte

Review by Bernd Feininger, in: Zeitschrift für christlich-jüdische Begegnung im Kontext 1–2 (2020), 142–144

02 Jan 2020
Gershom Scholem. Poetica. Schriften zur Literatur, Übersetzungen, Gedichte

Review by Cord-Friedrich Berghahn, in: Zeitschrift für Germanistik, New series XXX (2020), 247–252

29 May 2019
Das deutsch-jüdische Gespräch, eine Illusion? Gershom Scholem rang sein Leben lang darum, verkörperte es: die »Poetic« vorzüglich kommentiert

Review by Wolfgang Matz, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 29 May 2019

24 Mar 2019
Zurück zur Sprache der Bibel. Gershom Scholem: “Poetica”

Radio review by Hans-Martin Schönherr-Mann, in: Deutschlandfunk, program Büchermarkt, 24 Mar 2019

15 Mar 2019
Der Mann, der sich in eine Bibliothek verliebte. Poetica

Review by Eberhard Geisler, in: Frankfurter Rundschau, 15 Mar 2019