In turn-of-the-century Vienna, Karl Kraus created a bold new style of media criticism, penning incisive satires that elicited both admiration and outrage. Kraus’s spectacularly hostile critiques often focused on his fellow Jewish journalists, which brought him a reputation as the quintessential self-hating Jew. The Anti-Journalist overturns this view with unprecedented force and sophistication, showing how Kraus’s criticisms form the center of a radical model of German-Jewish self-fashioning, and how that model developed in concert with Kraus’s modernist journalistic style.
Paul Reitter’s study of Kraus’s writings situates them in the context of fin-de-siècle German-Jewish intellectual society. He argues that rather than stemming from anti-Semitism, Kraus’s attacks constituted an innovative critique of mainstream German-Jewish strategies for assimilation. Marshalling three of the most daring German-Jewish authors—Kafka, Scholem, and Benjamin—Reitter explains their admiration for Kraus’s project and demonstrates his influence on their own notions of cultural authenticity.
The Anti-Journalist is at once a new interpretation of a fascinating modernist oeuvre and a heady exploration of an important stage in the history of German-Jewish thinking about identity.
In the decades following World War II, many American Jews sought to downplay their difference, as a means of assimilating into Middle America. Yet a significant minority, including many prominent Jewish writers and intellectuals, clung to their ethnic difference, using it to register dissent with the status quo and act as spokespeople for non-white America.
In this provocative book, Jennifer Glaser examines how racial ventriloquism became a hallmark of Jewish-American fiction, as Jewish writers asserted that their own ethnicity enabled them to speak for other minorities. Rather than simply condemning this racial ventriloquism as a form of cultural appropriation or commending it as an act of empathic imagination, Borrowed Voices offers a nuanced analysis of the technique, judiciously assessing both its limitations and its potential benefits. Glaser considers how the practice of racial ventriloquism has changed over time, examining the books of many well-known writers, including Bernard Malamud, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, Michael Chabon, Saul Bellow, and many others.
Bringing Jewish studies into conversation with critical race theory, Glaser also opens up a dialogue between Jewish-American literature and other forms of media, including films, magazines, and graphic novels. Moreover, she demonstrates how Jewish-American fiction can help us understand the larger anxieties about ethnic identity, authenticity, and authorial voice that emerged in the wake of the civil rights movement.
This comparative study focuses on three groups often seen as antagonistic—Blacks, Jews, and Irish. Resolutely aware of past tensions, Bornstein argues that the pendulum has swung too far in that direction and that it is time to recover the history of lost connections and cooperation among the groups. The chronological range stretches from Frederick Douglass’s tour of Ireland during the Great Famine of the 1840s through the 1940s with the catastrophe of World War II. The study ends with the concept of the Righteous Gentile commemorated at the Israeli Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem--non-Jews who during the Holocaust risked their own lives to rescue Jews from the horror of the Holocaust. Bornstein expands the term here to include all those Irish, Jewish, or African American figures who fought against narrow identification only with their own group and instead championed a wider and more humane vision of a shared humanity that sees hybridity rather than purity and love rather than resentment. The identity politics and culture wars of recent decades often made recognizing those positive qualities problematic. But with the election of a mixed-race president who himself embodies mixture and mutual respect (and who famously described himself as a “mutt”), the shallow and arbitrary nature of narrow identity politics become evident. This study recuperates strong voices from the past of all three groups in order to let them speak for themselves.
Cosmopolitanisms and the Jews
Cathy S. Gelbin and Sander L. Gilman University of Michigan Press, 2017 Library of Congress JZ1308.G45 2017 | Dewey Decimal 305.892404
Cosmopolitanisms and the Jews adds significantly to contemporary scholarship on cosmopolitanism by making the experience of Jews central to the discussion, as it traces the evolution of Jewish cosmopolitanism over the last two centuries. The book sets out from an exploration of the nature and cultural-political implications of the shifting perceptions of Jewish mobility and fluidity around 1800, when modern cosmopolitanist discourse arose. Through a series of case studies, the authors analyze the historical and discursive junctures that mark the central paradigm shifts in the Jewish self-image, from the Wandering Jew to the rootless parasite, the cosmopolitan, and the socialist internationalist. Chapters analyze the tensions and dualisms in the constructed relationship between cosmopolitanism and the Jews at particular historical junctures between 1800 and the present, and probe into the relationship between earlier anti-Semitic discourses on Jewish cosmopolitanism and Stalinist rhetoric.
In this important new study, Judith Oster looks at the literature of Chinese Americans and Jewish Americans in relation to each other. Examining what is most at issue for both groups as they live between two cultures, languages, and environments, Oster focuses on the struggles of protagonists to form identities that are necessarily bicultural and always in process. Recognizing what poststructuralism has demonstrated regarding the instability of the subject and the impossibility of a unitary identity, Oster contends that the writers of these works are attempting to shore up the fragments, to construct, through their texts, some sort of wholeness and to answer at least partially the questions Who am I? and Where do I belong?
Oster also examines the relationship of the reader to these texts. When encountering texts written by and about “others,” readers enter a world different from their own, only to find that the book has become mirrorlike, reflecting aspects of themselves: they encounter identity struggles that are familiar but writ large, more dramatic, and set in alien environments.
Among the figures Oster considers are writers of autobiographical works like Maxine Hong Kingston and Eva Hoffman and writers of fiction: Amy Tan, Anzia Yezierska, Henry Roth, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Lan Samantha Chang, and Frank Chin. In explicating their work, Oster uses Lacan’s idea of the “mirror stage,” research in language acquisition and bilingualism, the reader-response theories of Iser and Wimmers, and the identity theories of Charles Taylor, Emile Benveniste, and others.
Oster provides detailed analyses of mirrors and doubling in bicultural texts; the relationships between language and identity and between language and culture; and code-switching and interlanguage (English expressed in a foreign syntax). She discusses food and hunger as metaphors that express the urgent need to hear and tell stories on the part of those forging a bicultural identity. She also shows how American schooling can undermine the home culture’s deepest values, exacerbating children’s conflicts within their families and within themselves. In a chapter on theories of autobiography, Oster looks at the act of writing and how the page becomes a home that bicultural writers create for themselves. Written in an engaging, readable style, this is a valuable contribution to the field of multicultural literary criticism.
Growing Up Ethnic examines the presence of literary similarities between African American and Jewish American coming-of-age stories in the first half of the twentieth century; often these similarities exceed what could be explained by sociohistorical correspondences alone. Martin Japtok argues that these similarities result from the way both African American and Jewish American authors have conceptualized their "ethnic situation." The issue of "race" and its social repercussions certainly defy any easy comparisons. However, the fact that the ethnic situations are far from identical in the case of these two groups only highlights the striking thematic correspondences in how a number of African American and Jewish American coming-of-age stories construct ethnicity. Japtok studies three pairs of novels--James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man and Samuel Ornitz's Haunch, Paunch and Jowl, Jessie Fauset's Plum Bun and Edna Ferber's Fanny Herself, and Paule Marshall's Brown Girl, Brownstones and Anzia Yezierska's Bread Giver--and argues that the similarities can be explained with reference to mainly two factors, ultimately intertwined: cultural nationalism and the Bildungsroman genre. Growing Up Ethnic shows that the parallel configurations in the novels, which often see ethnicity in terms of spirituality, as inherent artistic ability, and as communal responsibility, are rooted in nationalist ideology. However, due to the authors' generic choice--the Bildungsroman--the tendency to view ethnicity through the rhetorical lens of communalism and spiritual essence runs head-on into the individualist assumptions of the protagonist-centered Bildungsroman. The negotiations between these ideological counterpoints characterize the novels and reflect and refract the intellectual ferment of their time. This fresh look at ethnic American literatures in the context of cultural nationalism and the Bildungsroman will be of great interest to students and scholars of literary and race studies.
The Horse Fair
Robin Becker University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000 Library of Congress PS3552.E257H6 2000 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
In The Horse Fair, Robin Becker asks questions about citizenship and participation in the marketplaces—of bodies, of ideas, of objects—in which we function. She investigates how individuals marginalized by gender, religion, and sexual preference negotiate public and private spheres while inventing sustainable communities. Beginning with the great nineteenth-century French painter Rosa Bonheur, Becker has produced a number of multi-voiced, synthetic portraits, each within a framework of social history and a poetics of partiality—she speaks from the persona of Charlotte Salomon, child of assimilate, German-Jewish parents and grandparents and killed by the Nazis at the age of twenty-six; she appropriates passages from the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services; and juxtaposes them against stanzas that mourn her sister’s death and those that celebrate non-traditional families. Organized around the long meditations, other poems show Becker's dexterity with formal verse (sestina, sonnet, tercets) and her imaginative engagements with free verse.
The Horse Fair takes its name from Bonheur's monumental painting and serves as the vehicle through which Becker explores anti-Semitism, cross-dressing, and Bonheur's lifelong relationships with women. In Becker's hands, The Horse Fair transports us to the communal plaza where we come to barter and to buy, to study one another, to touch the foundation upon which we build our temporary habitations.
Jewish writers have long had a sense of place in the United States, and interpretations of American geography have appeared in Jewish American literature from the colonial era forward. But troublingly, scholarship on Jewish American literary history often limits itself to an immigrant model, situating the Jewish American literary canon firmly and inescapably among the immigrant authors and early environments of the early twentieth century. In A Hundred Acres of America, Michael Hoberman combines literary history and geography to restore Jewish American writers to their roles as critical members of the American literary landscape from the 1850s to the present, and to argue that Jewish history, American literary history, and the inhabitation of American geography are, and always have been, contiguous entities.
In drama and in musical comedy, in popular song and in symphonic music, in movies and in literature, Jews have contributed to American culture in the 20th century to a degree out of all proportion to their numbers. But does this vast creative output coalesce into something identifiable as an American Jewish culture? Stephen J. Whitfield answers this question with a resounding "yes!" Whitfield focuses on areas where the specifically Jewish contribution has been little explored. He surveys such fields as popular music, musical theater, and drama, focusing on key figures from Jerome Kern and the Gershwins to Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins; Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland to Irving Berlin and Bob Dylan; Arthur Miller and Lillian Hellman to David Mamet and Wendy Wasserstein. At the same time, Whitfield tackles the complex issue of race and American Jewish culture, tracing the extensive interpenetrations of Jewish and African American music. He also offers a stunning examination of Jewish American representations of the Holocaust, focusing on stage and film adaptations of Anne Frank's Diary and on Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. In a poignant, final chapter, Whitfield ponders the future of American Jewish culture after a century of assimilationist pressure and mainstream success. The distinctive culture that he has traced through the 20th century, Whitfield concludes, may finally become submerged and lost. Only a renewed emphasis on Judaism itself, he believes, offers the hope for American Jews to maintain the dual cultural identities that they have so long succeeded in nurturing.
Emil Draitser dreamed of becoming a writer. Born to a working-class Jewish family in the USSR on the eve of World War II, he came of age during the Brezhnev era, often considered the nadir of Soviet culture. Bored with an engineering job, he found refuge in writing, attracting the attention of a Moscow editor who encouraged him to try his hand at satire. He spent the next decade contributing to Crocodile, the major Party-sponsored magazine known for its sharp-tongued essays and caustic cartoons. After he got in trouble for criticizing an important Soviet official, he began weighing the heavy decision of whether to emigrate.
In this captivating memoir, Draitser explores what it means to be a satirist in a country lacking freedom of expression. His experience provides a window into the lives of a generation of artists who were allowed to poke fun and make readers laugh, as long as they toed a narrow, state-approved line. In the Jaws of the Crocodile also includes several of Draitser’s wry pieces translated into English for the first time.
Inthis book, Laurence Roth argues that the popular genre of Jewish detective stories offers new insights into the construction of ethnic and religious identity. Roth frames his study with the concept of “kosher hybridity” to look at the complex process of mediation between Jewish and American culture in which Jewish writers voice the desire to be both different from and yet the same as other Americans. He argues that the detective story, located at the intersection of narrative and popular culture in modern America, examines the need for order in a disorderly society, and thus offers a window into the negotiation of Jewish identity differing from that of literary fiction. The writers of these popular cultural texts, which are informed by contradiction and which thrive on intended and unintended ironies, formulate idioms for American Jewish identities that intentionally and unintentionally create social, ethnic, and religious syntheses in American Jewish life. Roth examines stories about American Jewish detectives—including Harry Kemelman’s Rabbi Small, Faye Kellerman’s Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, Stuart Kaminsky’s Abe Lieberman, and Rochelle Krich’s Jessica Drake—not only as a genre of literature but also as a reflection of contemporary acculturation in the American Jewish popular arts.
Jewish in America
Sara Blair and Jonathan Freedman, Editors University of Michigan Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS508.J4J48 2004 | Dewey Decimal 810.808924
"Jewish culture in America is creating a genuinely new archive---a powerful admixture of texts old and new, Jewish and gentile, sacred and secular, on which our writers and critics offer creative commentary and to which they make compelling response. Shaped in the American crucible of race and ethnicity, pushed and pulled by the American traditions of ahistorical and individualist thinking, empowered by a powerful sacramental and hermeneutic tradition yet challenged by that tradition's stunning variety of inflections, impelled to furious response by world crisis, these writers testify not only to the anguishing and joyous complexity of being Jewish in America, but the creative energies such multiplicity generates."
-From the Introduction
This rare and original work of cultural studies offers uncommon and engaging perspectives-as well as provocative and humorous insights-on what it means to be Jewish in America.
Jewish in America features poetry, art, essays, and stories from an impressive and respected list of contributors, including among others Stephen Greenblatt, Richard Kostelanetz, Jacqueline Osherow, Robert Pinsky, Sharon Pomerantz, Nancy Reisman, Grace Schulman, Louis Simpson, Alisa Solomon, and Stephen J. Whitfield.
In addition to pieces by some of the country's leading writers, the book features a stunning gallery of original photographs that transport the viewer from the crowded Coney Island beaches of the 1940s to the landscapes of Oaxaca, Mexico in the 1990s.
When he learned he had ALS and roughly two years to live, literary critic Mark Krupnick returned to the writers who had been his lifelong conversation partners and asked with renewed intensity: how do you live as a Jew, when, mostly, you live in your head? The evocative and sinuous essays collected here are the products of this inquiry. In his search for durable principles, Krupnick follows Lionel Trilling, Cynthia Ozick, Geoffrey Hartman, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, and others into the elemental matters of life and death, sex and gender, power and vulnerability.
The editors—Krupnick’s wife, Jean K. Carney, and literary critic Mark Shechner—have also included earlier essays and introductions that link Krupnick’s work with the “deep places” of his own imagination.
Studies of Eastern European literature have largely confined themselves to a single language, culture, or nationality. In this highly original book, Glaser shows how writers working in Russian, Ukrainian, and Yiddish during much of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century were in intense conversation with one another. The marketplace was both the literal locale at which members of these different societies and cultures interacted with one another and a rich subject for representation in their art. It is commonplace to note the influence of Gogol on Russian literature, but Glaser shows him to have been a profound influence on Ukrainian and Yiddish literature as well. And she shows how Gogol must be understood not only within the context of his adopted city of St. Petersburg but also that of his native Ukraine. As Ukrainian and Yiddish literatures developed over this period, they were shaped by their geographical and cultural position on the margins of the Russian Empire. As distinctive as these writers may seem from one another, they are further illuminated by an appreciation of their common relationship to Russia. Glaser’s book paints a far more complicated portrait than scholars have traditionally allowed of Jewish (particularly Yiddish) literature in the context of Eastern European and Russian culture.
Jurek Becker, the author of the first comic novel on the Holocaust, Jacob the Liar, and other highly acclaimed works, was one of West Germany's most famous exiles from the GDR. A survivor of the Shoah-his mother died in a Nazi death camp-and witness to the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, Becker endured most of the trials that Jews experienced in Europe from the onset of World War II to the end of the Cold War.
In the first biography of this fascinating figure, Sander Gilman tells the story of Becker's life in five worlds: the Polish-Jewish middle-class neighborhood where Becker was born; the Warsaw ghetto and the concentration camps where Becker spent his childhood; the socialist order of the GDR, which Becker idealized, resisted, and finally was forced to leave; the isolated world of West Berlin, where he settled down to continue his writing; and the new, reunified Germany, for which Becker served as both conscience and inspiration.
Gilman was close friends with Becker for nearly thirty years, and his biography is based on unprecedented access to both the man and his papers. As Gilman reveals, Becker's story encapsulates the fractured experience of life in twentieth-century Europe, a time and place in which political systems and national borders were constantly in flux. The life of Becker, we learn, was one of great literary achievement and notoriety, but it was also one of profound cultural dislocation. An important theme in the book is Becker's struggle with his Jewishness, an identity he repressed in socialist East Germany, but embraced after reunification, when he found himself at the center of Jewish culture and literature.
Sander Gilman's story of Jurek Becker is biography of the highest order, a portrait of an extraordinarily gifted artist whose hope and courage are manifested in his legacy as one of the greatest German writers of the past century.
An offbeat and brilliant imagining of a "lost novel" by Isaac Babel
A celebrated writer returns to his hometown of Odessa, pondering a deal with the secret police, pining for a daughter living abroad, and hoping to pen one last homage to his own past. Isaac Babel, the world famous spinner of tales about Cossacks and gangsters, arrives in Odessa to be treated for asthma-and perhaps help a condemned prisoner to escape. Or is it Babel who intends to escape?
For six decades our only record of Babel's visit has been the contents of letters and postcards sent abroad to his mother and sister. In King of Odessa, Robert A. Rosenstone imagines a version of this visit and the novel Babel wrote during those weeks. Babel himself is concerned with more than literary plots as he considers an escape just as he starts an affair with an actress who may be a police spy. He also ruminates on his past-his childhood as a sickly Jewish boy, the horrifying 1905 pogrom, the famous rides with the Cossacks that inspired Red Calvary, and above all his complicated relationships with women. Throughout the novel Rosenstone captures Babel's lively wit, his exhaustion with fame and the Soviet system, and his infectious charm.
This would prove to be Babel's last visit to Odessa. Three years later, he was arrested as a spy and executed. Rosenstone, the acclaimed biographer of writer and activist John Reed, mixes historical facts and fiction with the talent of a gifted storyteller. The result is a captivating exploration of a great writer surrounded by history and on the brink of falling out of it forever.
Navigating deftly among historical and literary readings, Cathy Schlund-Vials examines the analogous yet divergent experiences of Asian Americans and Jewish Americans in Modeling Citizenship. She investigates how these model minority groups are shaped by the shifting terrain of naturalization law and immigration policy, using the lens of naturalization, not assimilation, to underscore questions of nation-state affiliation and sense of belonging.
Modeling Citizenship examines fiction, memoir, and drama to reflect on how the logic of naturalization has operated at discrete moments in the twentieth century. Each chapter focuses on two exemplary literary works. For example, Schlund-Vials shows how Mary Antin's Jewish-themed play The Promised Land is reworked into a more contemporary Chinese American context in Gish Jen's Mona in the Promised Land.
In her compelling analysis, Schlund-Vials amplifies the structural, cultural, and historical significance of these works and the themes they address.
Event of the time are a bit like Impressionist paintings ... which combine into a recognizable whole only when observed from a distance.
--Gertrude Kolmar in a letter to her sister, October 22, 1939
So a picture of Gertrud Kolmar, a gifted Jewish writer struggling to sustain her art and family, emerges from these eloquent and allusive letters. Written in the stolen moments before her day as a forced laborer in a munitions factory began, the letters tell of Kolmar's move from the family home in Finkenkrug to a three-room flat in Berlin, which she and her father must soon share with other displaced Jews. They describe her factory work as a learning experience and assert, in the face of ever worsening conditions, that true art, never dependent on comfort or peace, is "capable of triumphing over ... time and place."
These letters are a triumph of art, proclaiming the freedom of the human will amidst oppression. Though prevented by Nazi censorship from saying too much too directly, Kolmar still conveys the intensity and determination of her inner world, as well as the relentlessness of the outer world bent on crushing her. For its insight into the mind and soul of a poet submitting to and denying fate, and for its interior vision of one of history's darkest moments, My Gaze Is Turned Inward is a unique document of literary, historical, and spiritual power.
In this collection of literary portraits, Jules Chametzky shares his recollections of more than forty notable Jewish writers, from Alfred Kazin to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Grace Paley, Saul Bellow, Irving Howe, Cynthia Ozick, Leslie Fiedler, Tillie Olsen, Adrienne Rich, Allen Ginsberg, Joseph Brodsky, and Amos Oz—to name a few. Also included are cameo appearances by non-Jewish authors, such as James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, and Jose Yglesias. Not only do these various writers emerge as interesting and often complicated human beings, but Chametzky reveals himself to be a warm and gracious storyteller.
Edited by Derek Rubin Brandeis University Press, 2010 Library of Congress PS648.J4P76 2010 | Dewey Decimal 813.008092870899
This vibrant anthology showcases new, unpublished short stories by a rapidly growing crop of highly talented young Jewish American fiction writers. Cohering around the core Jewish theme of the Promised Land, all the stories were written especially for this volume. With the kind of depth and imagination that only fiction allows, they offer striking variations on the multivalent theme of the Promised Land and how it continues to shape the collective consciousness of contemporary American Jews. This anthology provides a rich reading experience and a unique window onto Jewish American life and culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century. A scholarly introduction by Derek Rubin provides literary context, discusses the organization of the volume, and illuminates expected and unexpected connections among the stories. Promised Lands features 23 stories by Elisa Albert, Melvin Jules Bukiet, Janice Eidus, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Lauren Grodstein, Aaron Hamburger, Dara Horn, Rachel Kadish, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Joan Leegant, Yael Goldstein Love, Rivka Lovett, Tova Mirvis, Lev Raphael, Nessa Rapoport, Jonathan Rosen, Thane Rosenbaum, Joey Rubin, Edward Schwarzschild, Steve Stern, Lara Vapnyar, Adam Wilson, and Jonathan Wilson.
In her penetrating new study, Na’ama Rokem observes that prose writing—more than poetry, drama, or other genres—came to signify a historic rift that resulted in loss and disenchantment. In Prosaic Conditions, Rokem treats prose as a signifying practice—that is, a practice that creates meaning. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, prose emerges in competition with other existing practices, specifically, the practice of performance. Using Zionist literature as a test case, Rokem examines the ways in which Zionist authors put prose to use, both as a concept and as a literary mode. Writing prose enables these authors to grapple with historical, political, and spatial transformations and to understand the interrelatedness of all of these changes.
"What have I in common with Jews? I hardly have anything in common with myself!"
Kafka's quip--paradoxical, self-questioning, ironic--highlights vividly some of the key issues of identity and self-representation for Jewish writers in the 20th century. No group of writers better represents the problems of Jewish identity than Jewish poets writing in the American modernist tradition--specifically secular Jews: those disdainful or suspicious of organized religion, yet forever shaped by those traditions.
This collection of essays is the first to address this often obscured dimension of modern and contemporary poetry: the secular Jewish dimension. Editors Daniel Morris and Stephen Paul Miller asked their contributors to address what constitutes radical poetry written by Jews defined as "secular," and whether or not there is a Jewish component or dimension to radical and modernist poetic practice in general. These poets and critics address these questions by exploring the legacy of those poets who preceded and influenced them--Stein, Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Oppen, and Ginsberg, among others.
While there is no easy answer for these writers about what it means to be a Jew, in their responses there is a rich sense of how being Jewish reflects on their aesthetics and practices as poets, and how the tradition of the avant-garde informs their identities as Jews. Fragmented identities, irony, skepticism, a sense of self as "other" or "outsider," distrust of the literal, and belief in a tradition that questions rather than answers--these are some of the qualities these poets see as common to themselves, the poetry they make, and the tradition they work within.
The certainty that deep down we are all schlemiels is perhaps what makes America love an inept ball team or a Woody Allen who unburdens his neurotic heart in public.
In this unique, revised history of the schlemiel, Sanford Pinsker uses psychological, linguistic, and anecdotal approaches, as well as his considerable skills as a spritely storyteller, to trace the schlemiel from his beginnings in the Old Testament through his appearance in the nineteenth-century literature of Mendele Mocher Seforim and Sholom Aleichem to his final development as the beautiful loser in the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Woody Allen. Horatio Alger might have once been a good emblem of the American sensibility, but today Woody Allen’s anxious, bespectacled punin (face) seems closer, and truer, to our national experience. His urban, end-of-the-century anxieties mirror—albeit in exaggeration—our own.
This expanded study of the schlemiel is especially relevant now, when scholarship of Yiddish and American Jewish literature is on the increase. By sketching the family tree of that durable anti-hero the schlemiel, Pinsker proves that Jewish humor is built upon the very foundations of the Jewish experience. Pinsker shows the evolution of the schlemiel from the comic butt of Yiddish jokes to a literary figure that speaks to the heart of our modern problems, and he demonstrates the way that Yiddish humor provides a sorely needed correction, a way of pulling down the vanities we all live by.
A testament to the "spirit of poesy" that informs the life and work of Geza von Molnar, this volume of essays comes together around his principal preoccupations: the philosophical foundations of Goethe's writings, the structure and reception of German romanticism, the ethics of reading, and the fate of European Jewry. At the center of this work is the idea of a genuinely free humanity -- from its ambiguous presence in the aesthetic projects of Goethe and German romanticism to its utter absence in the Nazi extermination camps. Combining works in philosophy, literature, and Jewish studies by established and younger scholars, this collection contributes significantly to an understanding of German culture.
Berlin in the 1920s was a cosmopolitan hub where for a brief, vibrant moment German-Jewish writers crossed paths with Hebrew and Yiddish migrant writers. Working against the prevailing tendency to view German and East European Jewish cultures as separate fields of study, Strangers in Berlin is the first book to present Jewish literature in the Weimar Republic as the product of the dynamic encounter between East and West. Whether they were native to Germany or sojourners from abroad, Jewish writers responded to their exclusion from rising nationalist movements by cultivating their own images of homeland in verse, and they did so in three languages: German, Hebrew, and Yiddish.
Author Rachel Seelig portrays Berlin during the Weimar Republic as a “threshold” between exile and homeland in which national and artistic commitments were reexamined, reclaimed, and rebuilt. In the pulsating yet precarious capital of Germany’s first fledgling democracy, the collision of East and West engendered a broad spectrum of poetic styles and Jewish national identities.
Janet Burstein argues that American Jewish writers since the 1980s have created a significant literature by wrestling with the troubled legacy of trauma, loss, and exile. Their ranks include Cynthia Ozick, Todd Gitlin, Art Spiegelman, Pearl Abraham, Aryeh Lev Stollman, Jonathan Rosen, and Gerda Lerner. Whether confronting the massive losses of the Holocaust, the sense of “home” in exile, or the continuing power of Jewish memory, these Jewish writers search for understanding within “the little secrets” of their dark, complicated, and richly furnished past.
Nearly two million Jewish men, women, and children emigrated from Eastern Europe between 1882 and 1924 and settled in, or passed through, the Lower East Side of New York City. Sanford Sternlicht tells the story of his own childhood in this vibrant neighborhood and puts it within the context of fourteen early twentieth-century East Side writers. Anzia Yezierska, Abraham Cahan, Michael Gold, and Henry Roth, and others defined this new "Jewish homeland" and paved the way for the later great Jewish American novelists.
Sternlicht discusses the role of women, the Yiddish Theater, secular values, the struggle between generations, street crime, politics, labor unions, and the importance of newspapers and periodicals. He documents the decline of Yiddish culture as these immigrants blended into what they called "The Golden Land."
The Translated Jew brings together an eclectic set of literary and visual texts to reimagine the transnational potential for German Jewish culture in the twenty-first century. Departing from scholarship that has located the German Jewish text as an object that can be defined geographically and historically, Leslie Morris challenges national literary historiography and redraws the maps by which transnational Jewish culture and identity must be read.
Morris explores the myriad acts of translation, actual and metaphorical, through which Jewishness leaves its traces, taking as a given the always provisional nature of Jewish text and Jewish language. Although the focus is on contemporary German Jewish literary cultures, The Translated Jew also turns its attention to a number of key visual and architectural projects by American, British, and French artists and writers, including W. G. Sebald, Anne Blonstein, Hélène Cixous, Ulrike Mohr, Daniel Blaufuks, Paul Celan, Raymond Federman, and Rose Ausländer.
In thus realigning German Jewish culture with European and American Jewish culture and post-Holocaust aesthetics, this book explores the circulation of Jewishness between the United States and Europe. The insistence on the polylingualism of any single language and the multidirectionality of Jewishness are at the very center of The Translated Jew.
Underworlds of Memory argues persuasively that the literary works of the expatriate German author W. G. Sebald can best be understood through the lens of the classical genre of epic.
Scholars often read Sebald’s work as a project of cultural memory that aims to reevaluate Europe's past in the wake of the traumatic and complex events of the twentieth century. Sebald’s characters seek out the traces of Europe’s destructive history in strange places. They linger in disused train stations, pause before works of art, and return to childhood homes that turn out to be more foreign than any place they have visited. Underworlds of Memory demonstrates that these strange encounters with the past are based on central tropes of classical epic: the journey to the underworld, the encounter with a work of art, and the return to the homeland.
Sebald thus follows in the footsteps of German Jewish authors, including Peter Weiss, Siegfried Kracauer, and Jean Améry, who use these same epic tropes to reconsider the cultural memory of the Holocaust. Underworlds of Memory reads Sebald's works together with the works of these German Jewish authors and the classical epics of Homer and Virgil in order to describe and trace the origins of the unique intervention into cultural memory they embody.
Voices of the Diaspora offers, for the first time, representative works by major Jewish women writers from Austria, England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Russia. These stories and essays, written over the last twenty-five years, speak to the challenges confronting the post-Shoah generations of Jews living in Europe: a need to commemorate the lives extinguished in the camps; a desire to repair a ruptured culture; and a determination to reclaim a Jewish identity resistant to assimilation and the threats of anti-Semitism.
At the same time, these writers address themes specific to their national contexts. Berlin-born Barbara Honigmann questions the possibility of Jewish life in the country responsible for the "final solution." Maghreb-born Marlène Amar and Reina Roffé address the experiences of displacement and emancipation as Sephardic women in Western, post-colonial societies. Clara Sereni describes how Jews in post-Fascist Italy reemerged with a self-assertiveness that troubled a society that had found comfort in amnesia. Ludmila Ulitskaya portrays a Jewish girlhood on the eve of Stalin's death empowered by the religious traditions of Jewish resistance.
From the unique perspective of women's literary voices, this volume reveals to English-speaking readers the extraordinary vivacity and diversity of European Jewry, and introduces them to a new generation of women writers.
Finalist, 2015 National Jewish Book Awards in the American Jewish Studies category
Winner, 2017 AJS Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in the category of Modern Jewish History and Culture: Africa, Americas, Asia, and Oceania
Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel shows how Jews, traditionally castigated as weak and cowardly, for the first time became the popular literary representatives of what it meant to be a soldier and what it meant to be an American. Revisiting best-selling works ranging from Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, and uncovering a range of unknown archival material, Leah Garrett shows how Jewish writers used the theme of World War II to reshape the American public’s ideas about war, the Holocaust, and the role of Jews in postwar life. In contrast to most previous war fiction these new “Jewish” war novels were often ironic, funny, and irreverent and sought to teach the reading public broader lessons about liberalism, masculinity, and pluralism.