top of page

Debora Vogel: The Most Important Jewish Modernist Thinker and Yiddish Poet You Never Heard Of

Updated: Apr 11



Please Note Time Change This Meeting Only:

Sunday, April 7, 2024 - 4:00-5:30 pm Pacific


Anastasiya Lyubas, Blooming Spaces: The Collected Poetry, Prose, Critical Writing and Letters of Debora Vogel, Academic Studies Press, 2020


READ THE FOLLOWING. SCROLL DOWN FOR ALTERNATIVE SOURCES.


Read: Introduction


Then view:

Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927) by Walter Ruttman -- 1 hr., remastered with music added https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdFasmBJYFg


Next read on Vogel's art theory of montage:

5 Montage as a Literary Genre

6 Literary Montage: An Introduction

8 The Genealogy of Photomontage and its Possibilities


Afterwards read Vogel's approach to literature and the plastic arts:

1 White Words in Poetry

2 The First Yiddish Poets

3 Stasis, Dynamism, and Topicality in Art

4 The Romance of Dialectics

7 Theme and Form in Chagall's Art: A Critique

9 On Abstract Art

17 Preface to the Day Figures Collection


Then Vogel's Yiddish poetry and prose in English translation

Day Figure (p. 125)

On Longing (pp, 152-153)

City Grotesque Berlin (pp. 188-189)

Ballad About a Trashy Novel (pp. 201-202)

Ballad of a Streetwalker I pp. 209-210)


View/Listen to:

Lotte Lenya Singing "Seeräuber Jenny" (Pirate Jenny)


Continue:

Flower Shops with Azaleas (pp. 223-229)

Acacias Bloom (pp. 251-269 )


Then end here, making sure to rea the poem Circular Landscapes :

Torres, Anna Elena (2019). Circular Landscapes: Montage and Myth in Dvoyre Fogel’s Yiddish Poetry. Nashim : A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, 35, 40–74. https://doi.org/10.2979/nashim.35.1.02


Torres 2019 Debora Vogel
.pdf
Download PDF • 718KB


IF YOU DON"T HAVE THE BOOK, HERE'S A SET OF ALTERNATIVE SOURCES:


Walking with Vogel: New Perspectives on Debora Vogel through Poetry, Visual Art, Translation and Scholarship, Edited by Anna Elena Torres, Kathryn Hellerstein, & Anastasiya Lyubas. Special Issue of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies, October 2021


Start with:

Torres, Anna Elena, Kathryn Hellerstein, and Anastasiya Lyubas. “Walking with Vogel: New Perspectives on Debora Vogel.” In geveb, October 2021. https://ingeveb.org/articles/walking-with-vogel-new-perspectives-on-debora-vogel 


Next read:

Kuznetsova, Ekaterina, and Anastasiya Lyubas. “The Image of Streetwalkers in Itzik Manger’s and Debora Vogel’s Ballads.” In geveb, December 2020: https://ingeveb.org/articles/the-image-of-streetwalkers


View/Listen to: 

Lotte Lenya Singing "Seeräuber Jenny" (Pirate Jenny)


Then this PDF, making sure you read the poem Ciricular Landscapes:

Torres, Anna Elena (2019). Circular Landscapes: Montage and Myth in Dvoyre Fogel’s Yiddish Poetry. Nashim : A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, 35, 40–74. https://doi.org/10.2979/nashim.35.1.02

Torres 2019 Debora Vogel
.pdf
Download PDF • 718KB

And, if you have time, end here:

Torres, Anna Elena. “Montage-Murals: Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson’s “Present Figures” (Berlin 2021).” In geveb, October 2021: https://ingeveb.org/blog/montage-murals


BLOG

WHO AND WHY DEBORA VOGEL? (A MONTAGE WITH COLORS AND EMPHASIS ADDED)

Gelya Frank

Writer, Anthropologist, ShmoozaMama

Correspondence: gfrank@usc.edu


Taking my cue from Debora Vogel (1900-1942), rather than present a linear narrative, I offer you below a montage of perspectives by scholars and translators of her intense cultural productivity ca. 1927-1938. My montage has the ostensive purpose to “cover” materials on Vogel’s astonishing philosophical-artistic experimentalism, but by engaging with her Modernist faith in materials and process. Consequently, through the Constructivist manipulation of graphics and excerpts of text—that is, by treating them as ‘found objects’ --I can report on a different kind of understanding or a surplus of understanding than I might have achieved through the more usual methods of my own scholarly training (shout out, Anthropology!) uniting sources into a coherent, self-enclosed text.


One outcome of my experimental search for and juxtaposition of excerpts from various sources has been a felicitous release from the tedium of reading one article after another, in a dutiful march toward disciplined synthesis. If there's a connection between my liberating experience and Vogel's phenomenology of boredom, it's that Constructivism is more freeing method for a direct encounter with reality and the production of what Frederic Jameson refers to as 'new énonces' than the old mirror of representationalism. I believe this is somewhat the point made in the quote below by Kasimir Malevich.


You, The Reader, please go ahead and make your own synthesis from my fragments, or simply immerse yourself and have a great swim! To do no more than read about Vogel’s ideas about art and society--and even to ‘experience’ her writings (in Yiddish or English translation)—is to fall short of what this philosopher-poet asks of us. She gives us a set of tools to engage in a radical re-reading of our familiar habits of sense-making. She asks us to see more vividly the surfaces of things while conversely attempting to see the deep structures governing our cultural production. To do this with fresh creativity and useful insight is a task worthy of thinkers and artists in today's dark times.


Deb­o­ra Vogel was the apoth­e­o­sis of a trans­dis­ci­pli­nary Yid­dish mod­ernism which is no more. The con­tours of her work in poet­ry, aes­thet­ics, and crit­i­cism crossed lan­guages and domains of knowl­edge. Even after the dis­ap­pear­ance of much of the lit­er­ary, eco­nom­ic, and social infra­struc­ture that made pos­si­ble those intel­lec­tu­al pur­suits, the con­tours remain.

--Berger, Zackary Sholem. “Erasing the Written, Rewriting the Erased: A Fragmented and Imperfect Tribute to Vogel.” In geveb (October 2021)

Born in 1900 in Bursztyn in Galicia, then part of the Austrian Empire (now Burshtyn, Ukraine), Dvoyre Fogel was raised in a Polish-speaking home. Her father taught her Hebrew, and she began publishing articles on art history in Swedish, Polish and Hebrew journals at the age of 18. She studied philosophy

in Vienna, Polish literature in Krakow, and philosophy in Lwów (now Lviv), with Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz and Kazimierz Jerzy Skrzypna-Twardowski. After completing her dissertation in 1926 on the influence of Hegel’s aesthetics on philosopher and art historian Jozef Kremer, she taught psychology at a Hebrew teachers’ college.

-Torres, Anna Elena (2019). Circular Landscapes: Montage and Myth in Dvoyre Fogel’s Yiddish Poetry. Nashim : A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, 35, 40–74. https://doi.org/10.2979/nashim.35.1.02

As a philosopher and student of Kazimierz Twardowski (1866–1938) – the founder of the Lviv-Warsaw School of Logic – Vogel was a member of this leading scholarly collective.

--Werner, Sylwia. (2019). Between Philosophy and Art: The Avant-Garde Work of Debora Vogel. East European Jewish Affairs, 49(1), 20–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501674.2019.1618166

As a poet, she belonged to artistic circles and stood in close contact with writers and painters such as Karol Irzykowski, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Leon Chwistek, and Bruno Schulz. She also had ties to the avant-garde group “Artes,” which had been founded in Lviv in 1929 and supported Cubist and Surrealist tendencies. . . . Vogel . . . in her own work was broad and encompassed international modernism, spanning from Cubism to Kazimir Malevich and John Dos Passos to writers such as Rudolf Brunngraber and Kurt Schwitters.

--Werner, Sylwia. (2019). Between Philosophy and Art: The Avant-Garde Work of Debora Vogel. East European Jewish Affairs, 49(1), 20–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501674.2019.1618166

Modernism refers to a global movement in society and culture that from the early decades of the twentieth century sought a new alignment with the experience and values of modern industrial life . . .[through] new imagery, materials and techniques to create artworks that they felt better reflected the realities and hopes of modern societies.

--Art Term: Modernism. The Tate Museum, London. tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/m/modernism

Although many different styles are encompassed by the term, there are certain underlying principles that define modernist art: A rejection of history and conservative values (such as realistic depiction of subjects); innovation and experimentation with form (the shapes, colours and lines that make up the work) with a tendency to abstraction; and an emphasis on materials, techniques and processes.

--Art Term: Modernism. The Tate Museum, London. tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/m/modernism

The overarching philosophy of [the painter] Malevich . . . would be that he "transformed himself in the zero of form and dragged himself out of the rubbish-heap of illusion and the pit of naturalism."

--Kazimir Malevich (1879-1935). Wikipedia.


Malevich, Suprematism, 1915 Source: www.fineartamerica.com

Drawing on these inspirations Vogel developed her own technique, which she called montage. Vogel mainly used these montage techniques in prose texts, which she wrote in Yiddish.


VOGEL'S CHOICE: LEARNING AND WRITING IN YIDDISH AS AN TRANSNATIONAL DIASPORIC MODERNIST FEMALE POLISH JEWISH POET


She learned Yiddish as an adult; her first poems were written in Polish and German. Writing in Yiddish had an identity-defining role for her as she understood herself to be the ambassador of Jewish modernism in Poland.

--Werner, Sylwia. (2019). Between Philosophy and Art: The Avant-Garde Work of Debora Vogel. East European Jewish Affairs, 49(1), 20–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/13501674.2019.1618166

This essay examines the problematic intersections of gender, language and territory—in short, the negotiation of belonging—articulated in the pages of the Tsushtayer literary journal (1929–1931) by Yiddish women writers .... Tsushtayer strove to reach beyond reductive discourses of territorialism and nationalism and discuss ways of linguistic non-territorial belonging, representing a

literary quasi-territory and also offering a platform for the contribution of women writers. In their essays, reviews and poetic works, Rokhl Oyerbakh, Dvoyre Fogel, Kadya Molodowsky and others pondered issues of gender, especially the challenges faced by Jewish women intellectuals and writers creating space for themselves in Yiddish literature, Jewish culture and broader societal formations.

--Lyubas, Anastasiya. "Gender, Language and Territory: The Tsushtayer Literary Journal in Galicia and the Contributions of Yiddish Women Writers." Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues, vol. 37, 2020, p. 163-184. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/article/778196.

This article will explore the case of Debora Vogel, an avant-garde Yiddish poet who decided to self-translate her poems from German and Polish into Yiddish in her mid-20s. By choosing to write and translate into a minor language, Vogel affirmed her Jewish cultural identity and, as Cordingley states, “challenges the myth of the nation’s monolithic culture” by bringing her peripheral and minority experiences to the fore in writing a transnational, Yiddish, feminist, and modernist aesthetic.

--van der Meer, G. (2022). From Self-Translator to Cultural Ambassador: The Case of the Avant-Garde Yiddish Poet Debora Vogel. Comparative Literature Studies (Urbana), 59(4), 877–897. https://doi.org/10.5325/complitstudies.59.4.0877

. . . Yiddish literature remained a male-dominated field in which women Yiddish writers were hardly recognized until Ezra Korman compiled a volume of Yiddish poems by women titled Yidishe dikhterins: antologye (Yiddish Women Poets: Anthology) in 1928.... In addition to Korman’s anthology, there were a few exceptions of women editors of Yiddish journals, such as Rachel Auerbach and Kadia Molodowsky, who contributed to publishing women’s literary work in their journals. Despite these contributions, Vogel asserts in her letters to editors of Yiddish journals the challenges faced in publishing her work as she encountered different types of marginalities: linguistic marginality (given that she wrote in Yiddish), “extraliterary” marginality (as a woman), and “intraliterary” marginality (due to her avant-garde aesthetics) .

--van der Meer, G. (2022). From Self-Translator to Cultural Ambassador: The Case of the Avant-Garde Yiddish Poet Debora Vogel. Comparative Literature Studies (Urbana), 59(4), 877–897. https://doi.org/10.5325/complitstudies.59.4.0877

In her Shundbaladn, Vogel comments on the simplified plotlines of literary potboilers and the decorative aspects of theatrical crowd pleasers. Modernity transmits shund [Yid. trash] across multiple other media and Vogel channels the shoddy sentiments of popular film, fashion, and travel into her poetry. The author also engages with shund in journalism, that is, sensationalist crime chronicles and their flat narratives. In “ Balade fun a shlekhtn roman [A Ballad of a Trashy Novel] , ” Vogel meditates on the genre and the projected readership of pulp fiction, and deconstructs a “typical pulp novel plot” with its main characters’ intense longing for happiness—a happiness that seems to be out of reach. The venue of the poem’s publication, Literarishe bleter , is also not coincidental. This ongoing war against noncanonical literature known as shund (“trash”)” which was abundantly serialized in many publications in Warsaw and other cities.

--Kuznetsova, Ekaterina, and Anastasiya Lyubas. “The Image of Streetwalkers in Itzik Manger’s and Debora Vogel’s Ballads.” In geveb (December 2020).

Although the Polish Minority Treaty [Versailles, 1919] did favor minorities at some point, Poland’s constant political changes did not always facilitate the publication and recognition of minority writers such as Vogel. However, Vogel’s work is now starting to be rediscovered by scholars and academics such as Karen Underhill, Anna Maja Misiak, Kathryn Hellerstein, Karolina Szymaniak, Anna Torres, and Anastasiya Lyubas, and translations of her work into German and English have recently been published.

--van der Meer, G. (2022). From Self-Translator to Cultural Ambassador: The Case of the Avant-Garde Yiddish Poet Debora Vogel. Comparative Literature Studies (Urbana), 59(4), 877–897. https://doi.org/10.5325/complitstudies.59.4.0877 

IN GEVEB: DEBORA VOGEL'S MULTI-MEDIATED CULTURAL PRODUCTION IN AND AROUND TODAY'S POST-VERNACULAR YIDDISH RENAISSANCE



--Walking with Vogel: New Perspectives on Debora Vogel through Poetry, Visual Art, Translation and Scholarship, Special Issue of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies, October 2021

Dvoyre Fogel’s poem “Circular Landscape” (Kaylekhdike landshaft), published in her Yiddish collection Manekinen (Mannequins, 1934), exemplifies her approach to domesticity, materiality and reproductive labor. Collapsing multiple sightlines of interior and exterior space, the street and the kitchen, industry and mother’s milk, Fogel applies a highly refined experimental aesthetic to a domestic tableau. Time is rendered full and simultaneous, a practice that Fogel identifies in her critical essays as the “principle of simultaneity” (simultanizm), a

key element in her theories of montage. By inverting the processes of production and reproduction, the mother’s breast is both de-eroticized and rendered surplus. Her face remains unseen, and the baby absent. When no infant suckles, the parent’s body stops producing milk; here, the baby has been replaced by “gray sweet

bottles.” The mother’s body, stationary in the posture and labor of nursing, is become animate as women’s bodies become objectified, troubling the presumed hierarchy of body and machine. The force of Fogel’s stillness invites a reconsideration of dynamism, self-revelation and mobility as the defining emblems of

Yiddish Modernism.

--Torres, Anna Elena (2019). Circular Landscapes: Montage and Myth in Dvoyre Fogel’s Yiddish Poetry. Nashim : A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, 35, 40–74. https://doi.org/10.2979/nashim.35.1.02

Fogel’s verse examines the fraught relationship between women

and commodities, critiquing the objectification of the body wrought by capitalism without disavowing the pleasures of kitsch and consumption. Woven into her precision and delight. Key to her poetics is the principle of simultanizm, which expands a single visual field to include the commodified person alongside that

which she desires. Thus, Manekinen diverges from orthodox Marxist views of commodity and value: Both the laboring woman and the commercial object possess inherent worth preceding exchange value, which remains located within their very materiality.

--Torres, Anna Elena (2019). Circular Landscapes: Montage and Myth in Dvoyre Fogel’s Yiddish Poetry. Nashim : A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, 35, 40–74. https://doi.org/10.2979/nashim.35.1.02

For many years, Vogel’s name has been connected with that of the writer Bruno Schulz (1892–1942), because his Sklepy cynamonowe (Cinnamon Shops; 1933) developed out of their correspondence. During her lifetime, her own body of work received little attention, as she attempted to write the aesthetic program of the avant-garde into Yiddish literature, a project that found little favor among readers or critics. What united her with Schulz was such stylistic techniques as an orientation toward pictorial language, the motif of the mannequin, an ironic approach to

--Werberger, Annette. Dvora Vogel. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Vogel_Dvora

While little of her work has previously been translated into English, Fogel’s aesthetic theory and practice were prescient of major developments in European and U.S. feminist art. Fogel’s style, what she called her “white words,” helped invent “a new lyric poetry of the urban condition.” Her approach anticipated the postwar emergence of experimental representations of domestic temporality and

women’s labor, as exemplified by the films of Chantal Akerman and Trinh Minhha.

--Torres, Anna Elena (2019). Circular Landscapes: Montage and Myth in Dvoyre Fogel’s Yiddish Poetry. Nashim : A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies & Gender Issues, 35, 40–74. https://doi.org/10.2979/nashim.35.1.02

In Spring 2021, multilingual artist Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson, granddaughter of Soviet Yiddish writer Dovid Bergelson, launched a massive mural project in Berlin with quotes from Debora Vogel's "Day Figures" poems in the original Yiddish and translations into German, Arabic, and English.

Ponizovsky Bergelson reports that on the streets of Berlin, towering Yiddish letters spark hostility: “Like being naked in public, Yiddish is perceived as very rude.” She explains that she paints “not in a ‘clean’ style, but ‘dirty’” as a strategy to reveal the perceived ‘dirtiness’ of Yiddish itself in Germany: “We’re in the third generation to suppress and push it away—and here comes this woman and puts it outside so aggressively! I take it out from the hidden, pushed away, suppressed place where Yiddish is kept. People have a hard time with it here.” I ask how she chooses which phrases to paint in which language, and she replies, “What’s from Yiddish is left in Yiddish, to make people choke on it.” While children were delighted to watch the project sprawl and younger adults connected with its “multiculti” aspects, she also endured incessant complaints and police calls placed by older area denizens.

--Torres, Anna Elena. “Montage-Murals: Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson’s “Present Figures” (Berlin 2021).” In geveb, October 2021: https://ingeveb.org/blog/montage-murals


 









258 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page