Beyond the legality principle: Sacher-Masoch's economies of "Jewish Justice"

Erica Weitzman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's short story "Frau Leopard," one of the author's many popular tales of Jewish life, a town's local anti-Semite gets his comeuppance after he falls in love with the beautiful Jewish widow of the title. He thereby enters into a systemof desire, displacement, and revenge that Sacher-Masoch, in one of the tale's three subtitles, curiously names "Jewish Justice." Although Sacher-Masoch's vision of Jewish life innineteenth-century Poland is clearly no more than pure fantasy, the story's farcical plotnevertheless constitutes a real engagement with the questions of law, justice, fairness, contract, retribution, and citizenship that also lie at the core of both Marx's "On the Jewish Question" and Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, a discussion about the latter of which also marks the turning point of Sacher-Masoch's own tale. In direct contrast to both the drama and the political treatise, Sacher-Masoch's exoticizing and eroticizing of Jewish culture, or rather of minority and marginalization per se, act as a way to bypass normative demands in favor of perverse pleasure, and from this to attempt an answer to the problem of how to exercise justice in the absence of transcendent authority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)442-470
Number of pages29
JournalLaw and Literature
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Contract
  • Debt
  • Jews in Europe
  • Justice
  • Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
  • Revenge
  • Sado-masochism
  • The Merchant of Venice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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