American Naturalism and the Jews examines the unabashed anti-Semitism of five notable American naturalist novelists otherwise known for their progressive social values. Hamlin Garland, Frank Norris, and Theodore Dreiser all pushed for social improvements for the poor and oppressed, while Edith Wharton and Willa Cather both advanced the public status of women. But they all also expressed strong prejudices against the Jewish race and faith throughout their fiction, essays, letters, and other writings, producing a contradiction in American literary history that has stymied scholars and, until now, gone largely unexamined. In this breakthrough study, Donald Pizer confronts this disconcerting strain of anti-Semitism pervading American letters and culture, illustrating how easily prejudice can coexist with even the most progressive ideals.
Pizer shows how these writers' racist impulses represented more than just personal biases, but resonated with larger social and ideological movements within American culture. Anti-Semitic sentiment motivated such various movements as the western farmers' populist revolt and the East Coast patricians' revulsion against immigration, both of which Pizer discusses here. This antagonism toward Jews and other non-Anglo-Saxon ethnicities intersected not only with these authors' social reform agendas but also with their literary method of representing the overpowering forces of heredity, social or natural environment, and savage instinct.
After a century of critical neglect, poet and writer Amy Levy is gaining recognition as a literary figure of stature.
This definitive biography accompanied by her letters, along with the recent publication of her selected writings, provides a critical appreciation of Levy’s importance in her own time and in ours.
As an educated Jewish woman with homoerotic desires, Levy felt the strain of combating the structures of British society in the 1880s, the decade in which she built her career and moved in London’s literary and bohemian circles. Unwilling to cut herself off from her Jewish background, she had the additional burden of attempting to bridge the gap between communities.
In Amy Levy: Her Life and Letters Linda Hunt Beckman examines Levy’s writings and other cultural documents for insight into her emotional and intellectual life. This groundbreaking study introduces us to a woman well deserving of a place in literary and cultural history.
Over the past four decades Ruth R. Wisse has been a leading scholar of Yiddish and Jewish literary studies in North America, and one of our most fearless public intellectuals on issues relating to Jewish society, culture, and politics. In this celebratory volume, edited by four of her former students, Wisse’s colleagues take as a starting point her award-winning book The Modern Jewish Canon (2000) and explore an array of topics that touch on aspects of Yiddish, Hebrew, Israeli, American, European, and Holocaust literature.Arguing the Modern Jewish Canon brings together writers both seasoned and young, from both within and beyond the academy, to reflect the diversity of Wisse’s areas of expertise and reading audiences. The volume also includes a translation of one of the first modern texts on the question of Jewish literature, penned in 1888 by Sholem Aleichem, as well as a comprehensive bibliography of Wisse’s scholarship. In its richness and heft, Arguing the Modern Jewish Canon itself constitutes an important scholarly achievement in the field of modern Jewish literature.
Offering an informed critical approach, Skloot discusses more than two dozen plays and one film that confront the issues and stories of the Holocaust.
"An impressive achievement. . . . Udelson provides a trenchant analysis of Zangwill's works set within a historical context, i.e., Jewish emancipation and the dilemma of how one might remain fully Jewish while becoming fully modern, that helps to illuminate Zangwill's life as well as his writings."
—Jewish Book News
"By carefully following the threads of Zangwill's own divided self through the labyrinths of his life and writings, Udelson convinces us not only of the author's startling political prescience, but that he embodies attitudes now shared by almost all secular Jews as a result of events Zangwill did not witness—Nazism and the founding of Israel."
Making use of invaluable archival material, Feinberg's biographical account is followed by a study of Tabori's experimental theatre work. As did prominent avant-gardists such as Grotowski or Chaikin, Tabori sought to open up new vistas in an otherwise mainstream theatre system. Feinberg pays special attention to Tabori's theatrical innovations, most movingly found in his Holocaust plays. There Feinberg shows the ways in which Tabori's theatre becomes a locus of remembrance (Gedächtnisort) and of unique, engaging memory-work (Erinnerungsarbeit).
When the hero of Defoe’s novel listens skeptically to this anecdote related by a French Roman Catholic priest, he little suspects that in less than a century the conversion of the Jews would become nothing short of a national project—not in France but in England. In this book, Michael Ragussis explores the phenomenon of Jewish conversion—the subject of popular enthusiasm, public scandal, national debate, and dubbed "the English madness" by its critics—in Protestant England from the 1790s through the 1870s.Moving beyond the familiar catalog of anti-Semitic stereotypes, Ragussis analyzes the rhetoric of conversion as it was reinvented by the English in sermons, stories for the young, histories of the Jews, memoirs by Jewish converts, and popular novels. Alongside these texts and the countertexts produced by English Jews, he situates such writers as Edgeworth, Scott, Disraeli, Arnold, Trollope, and Eliot within the debate over conversion and related issues of race, gender, and nation-formation. His work reveals how a powerful group of emergent cultural projects—including a revisionist tradition of the novel, the new science of ethnology, and the rewriting of European history—redefined English national identity in response to the ideology of conversion, the history of the Jews, and "the Jewish question."Figures of Conversion offers an entirely new way of regarding Jewish identity in nineteenth-century British culture and will be of importance not only to literary scholars but also to scholars of Judaic and religious studies, history, and cultural studies.
The Inability to Love borrows its title from Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich’s 1967 landmark book The Inability to Mourn, which discussed German society’s lack of psychological reckoning with the Holocaust. Challenging that notion, Agnes Mueller turns to recently published works by prominent contemporary German, non-Jewish writers to examine whether there has been a thorough engagement with German history and memory. She focuses on literature that invokes Jews, Israel, and the Holocaust. Mueller’s aim is to shed light on pressing questions concerning German memories of the past, and on German images of Jews in Germany at a moment that s ideologically and historically fraught.
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.
The Jewish Graphic Novel is a lively, interdisciplinary collection of essays that addresses critically acclaimed works in this subgenre of Jewish literary and artistic culture. Featuring insightful discussions of notable figures in the industryùsuch as Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, and Joann Sfarùthe essays focus on the how graphic novels are increasingly being used in Holocaust memoir and fiction, and to portray Jewish identity in America and abroad
Featuring more than 85 illustrations, this collection is a compelling representation of a major postmodern ethnic and artistic achievement.
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.
Legacies of Anti-Semitism in France was first published in 1983. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
These four essays—on Blanchot, Lacan, Giraudoux, and Gide—have as their focus the barely imaginable coherence which the writings of four major contemporaries take on when read in the light of France's pre-World War II heritage of anti-Jewish thought. As the essays delve into such crucial topics as the inaugural silence in Blanchot's sense of literature, the "style" of Lacan, Giraudoux's relation to Racine, and the sexual politics of Gide, they engage a realm that at times seems—or seemed—anti-Semitic in its essence. Negotiating the complex ramifications of a lost tradition and the structure of its obliteration, Jeffrey Mehlman, in his conclusion, speculates on the emblematic value of Walter Benjamin's perpetually deferred "journey to Palestine via France" and its import for textual interpretation.
A French version of Mehlman's essay on Blanchot, published in Tel quel,spurred an impassioned journalistic debate in Paris and London. Broadening still further the context of that inquiry, Legacies will prove a source of provocation and insight to all who are interested in the intellectual history of contemporary France.
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.
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.
In Yiddish, shtetl simply means “town.” How does such an unassuming word come to loom so large in modern Jewish culture, with a proliferation of uses and connotations? By examining the meaning of shtetl, Jeffrey Shandler asks how Jewish life in provincial towns in Eastern Europe has become the subject of extensive creativity, memory, and scholarship from the early modern era in European history to the present.
In the post-Holocaust era, the shtetl looms large in public culture as the epitome of a bygone traditional Jewish communal life. People now encounter the Jewish history of these towns through an array of cultural practices, including fiction, documentary photography, film, memoirs, art, heritage tourism, and political activism. At the same time, the shtetl attracts growing scholarly interest, as historians, social scientists, literary critics, and others seek to understand both the complex reality of life in provincial towns and the nature of its wide-ranging remembrance.
Shtetl: A Vernacular Intellectual History traces the trajectory of writing about these towns—by Jews and non-Jews, residents and visitors, researchers, novelists, memoirists, journalists and others—to demonstrate how the Yiddish word for “town” emerged as a key word in Jewish culture and studies. Shandler proposes that the intellectual history of the shtetl is best approached as an exemplar of engaging Jewish vernacularity, and that the variable nature of this engagement, far from being a drawback, is central to the subject’s enduring interest.
In a culture deeply divided along ethnic lines, the idea that the relationship between blacks and Jews was once thought special—indeed, critical to the cause of civil rights—might seem strange. Yet the importance of blacks for Jews and Jews for blacks in conceiving of themselves as Americans, when both remained outsiders to the privileges of full citizenship, is a matter of voluminous but perplexing record. It is this record, written across the annals of American history and literature, culture and society, that Eric Sundquist investigates. A monumental work of literary criticism and cultural history, Strangers in the Land draws upon politics, sociology, law, religion, and popular culture to illuminate a vital, highly conflicted interethnic partnership over the course of a century.Sundquist explores how reactions to several interlocking issues—the biblical Exodus, the Holocaust, Zionism, and the state of Israel—became critical to black–Jewish relations. He charts volatile debates over social justice and liberalism, anti-Semitism and racism, through extended analyses of fiction by Bernard Malamud, Paule Marshall, Harper Lee, and William Melvin Kelley, as well as the juxtaposition of authors such as Saul Bellow and John A. Williams, Lori Segal and Anna Deavere Smith, Julius Lester and Philip Roth. Engaging a wide range of thinkers and writers on race, civil rights, the Holocaust, slavery, and related topics, and cutting across disciplines to set works of literature in historical context, Strangers in the Land offers an encyclopedic account of questions central to modern American culture.
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.
Praise for Todd Kontje
". . . a refreshing example of what literary discourse can teach us about national identity, even historical events and trends---those aspects of a nation's evolving heritage and tradition usually reserved for other disciplines."
"Kontje has pulled off the amazing feat of a grand narrative: from the epic literature of the Middle Ages to very recent texts on the emerging multicultural Germany. Kontje's grand narrative, it should be noted, is not at all simplistic or reductionistic. He gets at the individual texts in complex ways . . . he displays an enviable erudition and scholarship, tracing lines through centuries when most scholars today limit themselves to narrow specialties."
---Russell Berman, Stanford University
Exactly how Thomas Mann's significance registers with the scholarly and general public has been subject to change. For many, Mann retains the aura of the "good German," the Nobel Laureate who was the most vocal leader of the exile community against Hitler and the Third Reich. His diaries, however, contain some rather nasty comments about Mann's many Jewish friends and acquaintances, inspiring a renewed look at the negative Jewish stereotypes in his fiction. The man once venerated as a voice of reason and cosmopolitan tolerance against racist bigotry has been eviscerated as a clandestine anti-Semite.
Thomas Mann's World is a comprehensive reevaluation of Mann as the representative German author of the Age of Empire, placing Mann's comments about Jews and the Jewish characters in his fiction in the larger context of his attentiveness to racial difference, both in the world at large and in himself. Kontje argues that Mann is a worldly author---not in the benign sense that he was an eloquent spokesman for a pan-European cosmopolitanism who had witnessed the evils of nationalism gone mad, although he was that, too---but in the sense of a writer whose personal prejudices reflected those of the world around him, a writer whose deeply autobiographical fiction expressed not only the concerns of the German nation, as he liked to claim, but also of the world in an era of imperial conquest and global conflict.
Todd Kontje is Professor of German and Comparative Literature and Chair of the German Department at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of German Orientalisms (University of Michigan Press, 2004).
Jacket photographs: Thomas Mann, approximately 1900 and 1955, reproduced with the generous permission of the Buddenbrookhaus, Kulturstiftung Hansestadt Lübeck.
Vengeance of the Victim was first published in 1986. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
More profoundly than any documentary record, the collected fiction of Giorgio Bassani—Il Romanzo di Ferrara — captures a very particular and powerful historical reality: Italian Jewish life under Fascism, especially between the passage of the so-called racial laws in 1938 and the end of World War II. Set primarily in the provincial city of Ferrara, Bassani's narratives interweave themes of death, victimization, betrayal, survival, and artistic production. His best-known novel, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis — and other works that concentrate on the crucial years of 1938-1945—stand at the center of the Romanzo.They are preceded by texts that look back on Jewish life in the liberal era of the Risorgimento, and followed by texts set in the liberated, democratic society of the postwar years. These framing narratives provide a space for remembrance and reflection.
Marilyn Schneider's aim, in Vengeance of the Victim, is to uncover the symbolic layers — historical, spatial, topographical, mythopoeic, allegorical, and sexual — that five Bassani's texts their richness and ambiguity, and in so doing to achieve a full understanding of his work and its representation of the Italian Jewish experience. Death and victimization, which pervade these texts, set in motion a process of artistic renewal that is most fully embodied in the vibrant young Micol Finzi-Contini, Bassani's textual icon and a victim of the Holocaust. Schneider also finds that the narratives, especially the late ones, pay self-reflexive attention to the creation of the text, constructing an authorial persona engaged in an existential, moral, and artistic journey from symbolic death to rebirth. It is the writing subject's successful completion of the journey that constitutes the vengeance of the victim.
In her readings of Spanish American and Brazilian fiction, Graff Zivin highlights inventions of Jewishness in which the concept is constructed as a rhetorical device. She argues that Jewishness functions as a wandering signifier that while not wholly empty, can be infused with meaning based on the demands of the textual project in question. Just as Jews in Latin America possess distinct histories relative to their European and North American counterparts, they also occupy different symbolic spaces in the cultural landscape. Graff Zivin suggests that in Latin American fiction, anxiety, desire, paranoia, attraction, and repulsion toward Jewishness are always either in tension with or representative of larger attitudes toward otherness, whether racial, sexual, religious, national, economic, or metaphysical. She concludes The Wandering Signifier with an inquiry into whether it is possible to ethically represent the other within the literary text, or whether the act of representation necessarily involves the objectification of the other.
The publication of Martha B. Helfer’s The Word Unheard: Legacies of Anti-Semitism in German Literature and Culture marks a stunningly original new direction in the interpretation of canonical works of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German literature.
Between 1749 and 1850—the formative years of the so-called Jewish Question in Germany—the emancipation debates over granting full civil and political rights to Jews provided the topical background against which all representations of Jewish characters and concerns in literary texts were read. Helfer focuses sharply on these debates and demonstrates through close readings of works by Gotthold Lessing, Friedrich Schiller, Achim von Arnim, Annette von Droste- Hülshoff, Adalbert Stifter, and Franz Grillparzer how disciplinary practices within the field of German studies have led to systematic blind spots in the scholarship on anti-Semitism to date.
While all the authors discussed are well known and justly celebrated, the particular works addressed represent an effective mix of enduring classics and less recognized, indeed often scandalously overlooked, texts whose consideration leads to a reevaluation of the author’s more mainstream oeuvre. Although some of the works and authors chosen have previously been noted for their anti-Semitic proclivities, the majority have not, and some have even been marked by German scholarship as philo-Semitic—a view that The Word Unheard undertakes not so much to refute as to complicate, and in the process to question not only these texts but also the deafness of the German scholarly tradition. With implications that reach into many disciplines, The Word Unheard will be a foundational study for all scholars of modern Germany.
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