The history of the American entertainment industry and the history of the Jewish people in the United States are inextricably intertwined. Jews have provided Broadway and Hollywood with some of their most enduring talent, from writers like Arthur Miller, Wendy Wasserstein, and Tony Kushner; to directors like Jerome Robbins and Woody Allen; to performers like Gertrude Berg, John Garfield, Lenny Bruce, and Barbra Streisand. Conversely, show business has provided Jews with a means of upward mobility, a model for how to "become American," and a source of cultural pride.
Acting Jewish documents this history, looking at the work of Jewish writers, directors, and actors in the American entertainment industry with particular attention to the ways in which these artists offer behavioral models for Jewish-American audiences. The book spans the period from 1947 to the present and takes a close look at some of America's favorite plays (Death of a Salesman, Fiddler on the Roof, Angels in America), films (Gentleman's Agreement, AnnieHall), and television shows (The Goldbergs, Seinfeld), identifying a double-coding by which performers enact, and spectators read, Jewishness in contemporary performance-and, by extension, enact and read other minority identities. The book thus explores and illuminates the ever-changing relationship between Jews and mainstream American culture.
"Fascinating and original . . . Bial's command of sources is impressive, and his concept of 'double-coding' is convincing . . . the book should have no trouble finding a large audience."
-Barbara Grossman, author of Funny Woman: The Life and Times of Fanny Brice
Henry Bial is Assistant Professor of Theatre and Film, University of Kansas. He is editor of the Performance Studies Reader and co-editor of the Brecht Sourcebook.
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.
In Blood Relations, Janet Adelman confronts her resistance to The Merchant of Venice as both a critic and a Jew. With her distinctive psychological acumen, she argues that Shakespeare’s play frames the uneasy relationship between Christian and Jew specifically in familial terms in order to recapitulate the vexed familial relationship between Christianity and Judaism.
Adelman locates the promise—or threat—of Jewish conversion as a particular site of tension in the play. Drawing on a variety of cultural materials, she demonstrates that, despite the triumph of its Christians, The Merchant of Venice reflects Christian anxiety and guilt about its simultaneous dependence on and disavowal of Judaism. In this startling psycho-theological analysis, both the insistence that Shylock’s daughter Jessica remain racially bound to her father after her conversion and the depiction of Shylock as a bloody-minded monster are understood as antidotes to Christian uneasiness about a Judaism it can neither own nor disown.
In taking seriously the religious discourse of The Merchant of Venice, Adelman offers in Blood Relations an indispensable book on the play and on the fascinating question of Jews and Judaism in Renaissance England and beyond.
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.
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.
"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).
"I knew a Man, who having nothing but a summary Notion of Religion himself, and being wicked and profligate to the last Degree in his Life, made a thorough Reformation in himself, by labouring to convert a Jew." —Daniel Defoe, The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719)
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.
"This innovative, well-researched study looks at anti-Judaic rhetoric in the Old English and Latin texts of Anglo-Saxon England-a land lacking real Jews. The author isolates a common pool of inherited images for portraying the Jew, and teaches us to hear, especially in the vernacular, their increasingly dark and disturbing inflections."
---Roberta Frank, Yale University
"The Footsteps of Israel is a fascinating study of a pervasive stereotype. Scheil's analysis of how Jews, with no real physical presence in Anglo-Saxon England, captured the imagination of writers of the period, is a superb achievement."
---Louise Mirrer, President and CEO, New-York Historical Society
"The elegance of Scheil's prose weaves a unifying thread through the vast literary and historical tapestry he presents, moving with grace from Latin to Old English, from Bede to later authors, from Wordsworth and Blake to modern writers. He speaks elegantly of these texts' conversations with the past, and the Jews emerge as both enemies and spiritual antecedents of the 'New Israel' of Anglo-Saxon England."
---Stephen Spector, State University of New York, Stonybrook
Jews are the omnipresent border-dwellers of medieval culture, a source of powerful metaphors active in the margins of medieval Christianity. This book outlines an important prehistory to later persecutions in England and beyond, yet it also provides a new understanding of the previously unrecognized roles Jews and Judaism played in the construction of social identity in early England.
Andrew P. Scheil approaches the Anglo-Saxon understanding of Jews from a variety of directions, including a survey of the lengthy history of the ideology of England as the New Israel, its sources in late antique texts and its manifestation in both Old English and Latin texts from Anglo-Saxon England. In tandem with this perhaps more sympathetic understanding of the Jews is a darker vision of anti-Judaism, associating the Jews in an emotional fashion with the materiality of the body.
In exploring the complex ramifications of this history, the author is the first to assemble and study references to Jews in Anglo-Saxon culture. For this reason, The Footsteps of Israel will be an important source for Anglo-Saxonists, scholars of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, scholars of medieval antisemitism in general, students of Jewish history, and medievalists interested in cultural studies.
In Goethe and Judaism, Schutjer aims to provide a broad, though by no means exhaustive, literary study that is neither apologetic nor reductive, that attends to the complexity and irony of Goethe’s literary work but takes his representations of Judaism seriously as an integral part of his thought and writing. She is thus concerned not simply with accusing or acquitting Goethe of prejudice but rather with discerning the function and logic of his relationship to Judaism, as seen within his work. Her premise is that Goethe’s conception of modernity—his anxieties as well as his most affirmative vision concerning the trajectory of his age—are deeply entwined with his conception of Judaism. Schutjer argues that behind his very mixed representations of Jews and Judaism stand crucial tensions within his own thinking and a distinct anxiety of influence. Indeed, Goethe, she contends, paradoxically wrestles against precisely those impulses in Judaism for which he feels the greatest affinity, which most approach his own vision of modernity. The discourse of wandering in Goethe’s work serves as a key site where Judaism and modernity meet.
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.
While battling negative stereotypes, American Jews carved out new roles for themselves within the first theatrical entertainments in America. Jewish citizens were active as performers, playwrights, critics, managers, and theatrical shareholders, and often tied their involvement in these endeavors to the patriotic rhetoric of the young republic as they struggled to establish themselves in the new nation. Examining play texts, theatrical reviews, political discourse, and public performances of Jewish rights and rituals, Hideous Characters and Beautiful Pagans argues that Jewish stage types shed light on our understanding of the status of Jewish Americans during a critical historical period.
Using an eclectic range of sources including theatrical reviews, diaries, letters, cartoons, portraiture, tax records, rumors flying around the tavern, and more, Heather S. Nathans has listened for the echoes of vanished audiences who witnessed and responded to these stereotypes onstage, from the earliest appearance of Shylock on an American stage in 1752 to Jewish theater artists on the eve of the Civil War. The book integrates social, political, and cultural histories, with an examination of those texts (both dramatic and literary) that shaped the stage Jew.
Why do we so often speak of books as living, flourishing, and dying? And what is at stake when we do so? This habit of treating books as people, or personifying texts, is rampant in postwar American culture. In this bracing study, Amy Hungerford argues that such personification has become pivotal to our contemporary understanding of both literature and genocide. Personified texts, she contends, play a particularly powerful role in works where the systematic destruction of entire ethnic groups is at issue.
Hungerford examines the implications of conflating texts with people in a broad range of texts: Art Spiegelman's Maus; Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451; the poetry of Sylvia Plath; Binjamin Wilkomirski's fake Holocaust memoir Fragments; and the fiction of Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Don DeLillo. She considers the ethical consequences of this trend in the work of recent and contemporary theorists and literary critics as well, including Cathy Caruth, Jacqueline Rose, Jacques Derrida, and Paul de Man. What she uncovers are fundamentally flawed ideas about representation that underwrite and thus undermine powerful and commonly accepted claims about literature and identity. According to Hungerford, the personification of texts is ethically corrosive and theoretically unsound. When we exalt the literary as personal and construe genocide as less a destruction of human life than of culture, we esteem memory over learning, short-circuit debates about cultural change, lend credence to the illusion or metaphysics of presence, and limit our conception of literature and its purpose.
Ultimately, The Holocaust of Texts asks us to think more deeply about the relationship between reading, experience, and memorialization. Why, for instance, is it more important to remember acts of genocide than simply to learn about them? If literary works are truly the bearers of ontology, then what must be our conduct toward them? Considering difficult questions such as these with fresh logic, Hungerford offers us an invigorating work, one that will not only interest scholars of American and postwar literature, but students of the Holocaust and critical theory as well.
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.
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.
In the 1970s and 1980s Jewish cartoonists such as Will Eisner were some of the first artists to use the graphic novel as a way to explore their ethnicity. Although similar to their pop culture counterpart, the comic book, graphic novels presented weightier subject matter in more expensive packaging, which appealed to an adult audience and gained them credibility as a genre.
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.
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.
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.
June J. Hwang’s provocative Lost in Time explores discourses of timelessness in the works of central figures of German modernity such as Walter Benjamin, Georg Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer, and Helmuth Plessner, as well as those of Alfred Döblin, Joseph Roth, and Hugo Bettauer. Hwang argues that in the Weimar Republic the move toward ahistoricization is itself a historical phenomenon, one that can be understood by exploring the intersections of discourses about urban modernity, the stranger, and German Jewish identity.
These intersections shed light on conceptions of German Jewish identity that rely on a negation of the specific and temporal as a way to legitimize a historical outsider position, creating a dynamic position that simultaneously challenges and acknowledges the limitations of an outsider’s agency. She reads these texts as attempts to transcend the particular, attempts that paradoxically reveal the entanglement of the particular and the universal.
The first major Jewish poet in America and a key figure of the Objectivist movement, Charles Reznikoff was a crucial link between the generation of Pound and Williams, and the more radical modernists who followed in their wake. A Menorah for Athena, the first extended treatment of Reznikoff's work, appears at a time of renewed interest in his contribution to American poetry.
Stephen Fredman illuminates the relationship of Jewish intellectuals to modernity through a close look at Reznikoff's life and writing. He shows that when we regard the Objectivists as modern Jewish poets, we can see more clearly their distinctiveness as modernists and the reasons for their profound impact upon later poets, such as Allen Ginsberg and Charles Bernstein. Fredman also argues that to understand Reznikoff's work more completely, we must see it in the context of early, nonsectarian attempts to make the study of Jewish culture a force in the construction of a more pluralistic society. According to Fredman, then, the indelible images in Reznikoff's poetry open a window onto the vexed but ultimately successful entry of Jewish immigrants and their children into the mainstream of American intellectual life.
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.
It was only when Jewish writers gave up on the lofty Enlightenment ideals of progress and improvement that the Yiddish novel could decisively enter modernity. Animating their fictions were a set of unheroic heroes who struck a precarious balance between sanguinity and irony that author Miriam Udel captures through the phrase “never better.” With this rhetorical homage toward the double-voiced utterances of Sholem Aleichem, Udel gestures at these characters’ insouciant proclamation that things had never been better, and their rueful, even despairing admission that things would probably never get better.
The characters defined by this dual consciousness constitute a new kind of protagonist: a distinctively Jewish scapegrace whom Udel denominates the polit or refugee. Cousin to the Golden Age Spanish pícaro, the polit is a socially marginal figure who narrates his own story in discrete episodes, as if stringing beads on a narrative necklace. A deeply unsettled figure, the polit is allergic to sentimentality and even routine domesticity. His sequential misadventures point the way toward the heart of the picaresque, which Jewish authors refashion as a vehicle for modernism—not only in Yiddish, but also in German, Russian, English and Hebrew. Udel draws out the contours of the new Jewish picaresque by contrasting it against the nineteenth-century genre of progress epitomized by the Bildungsroman.
While this book is grounded in modern Jewish literature, its implications stretch toward genre studies in connection with modernist fiction more generally. Udel lays out for a diverse readership concepts in the history and theory of the novel while also explicating the relevant particularities of Jewish literary culture. In addressing the literary stylistics of a “minor” modernism, this study illuminates how the adoption of a picaresque sensibility allowed minority authors to write simultaneously within and against the literary traditions of Europe.
Orientalism and the Jews
Edited by Ivan Davidson Kalmar and Derek Penslar Brandeis University Press, 2004 Library of Congress DS61.85.O753 2005 | Dewey Decimal 909.04924
At the turn of the twenty-first century, in spite of growing globalization there remains in the world a split between the West and the rest. The manner in which this split has been imagined and represented in Western civilization has been the subject of intense cross-disciplinary scrutiny, much of it under the rubric of “orientalism.” This debate, sparked by the 1978 publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism identifies the “Orient” as the Islamic world and to a lesser extent Hindu India. “Orientalism” signifies the way the West imagined this terrain. Going beyond Said’s framework, in their introduction to the volume, Kalmar and Penslar argue that orientalism is based on the Christian West’s attempts to understand and manage its relations with both of its monotheistic Others—Muslims and Jews. According to the editors, Jews have almost always been present whenever occidentals talked about or imagined the East; and the Western image of the Muslim Orient has been formed and continues to be formed in inextricable conjunction with Western perceptions of the Jewish people. Bringing together essays by an array of international scholars in a wide range of disciplines, Orientalism and the Jews demonstrates that, since the Middle Ages, Jews have been seen in the Western world as both occidental and oriental. Jews formed the model for medieval depictions of Muslim warriors. Representations of biblical Jews in early modern Europe provided essential sustenance for Western fictions about the Muslim world. And many of the Western protagonists of imperialism “discovered” real or imaginary Jews wherever their expeditions took them. Today orientalist attitudes by Israelis target not only Arabs but also the mizrahi (“oriental”) Israelis with roots in the Arab world as Others.
Why has the realist novel been persistently understood as promoting liberalism? Can this tendency be reconciled with an equally familiar tendency to see the novel as a national form? In A Probable State, Irene Tucker builds a revisionary argument about liberalism and the realist novel by shifting the focus from the rise of both in the eighteenth century to their breakdown at the end of the nineteenth. Through a series of intricate and absorbing readings, Tucker relates the decline of realism and the eroding logic of liberalism to the question of Jewish characters and writers and to shifting ideas of community and nation.
Whereas previous critics have explored the relationship between liberalism and the novel by studying the novel's liberal characters, Tucker argues that the liberal subject is represented not merely within the novel, but in the experience of the novel's form as well. With special attention to George Eliot, Henry James, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and S. Y. Abramovitch, Tucker shows how we can understand liberalism and the novel as modes of recognizing and negotiating with history.
Many Jewish artists and writers contributed to the creation of popular comics and graphic novels, and in The Quest for Jewish Belief and Identity in the Graphic Novel, Stephen E. Tabachnick takes readers on an engaging tour of graphic novels that explore themes of Jewish identity and belief.
The creators of Superman (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster), Batman (Bob Kane and Bill Finger), and the Marvel superheroes (Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), were Jewish, as was the founding editor of Mad magazine (Harvey Kurtzman). They often adapted Jewish folktales (like the Golem) or religious stories (such as the origin of Moses) for their comics, depicting characters wrestling with supernatural people and events. Likewise, some of the most significant graphic novels by Jews or about Jewish subject matter deal with questions of religious belief and Jewish identity. Their characters wrestle with belief—or nonbelief—in God, as well as with their own relationship to the Jews, the historical role of the Jewish people, the politics of Israel, and other issues related to Jewish identity.
In The Quest for Jewish Belief and Identity in the Graphic Novel, Stephen E. Tabachnick delves into the vivid kaleidoscope of Jewish beliefs and identities, ranging from Orthodox belief to complete atheism, and a spectrum of feelings about identification with other Jews. He explores graphic novels at the highest echelon of the genre by more than thirty artists and writers, among them Harvey Pekar (American Splendor), Will Eisner (A Contract with God), Joann Sfar (The Rabbi’s Cat), Miriam Katin (We Are On Our Own), Art Spiegelman (Maus), J. T. Waldman (Megillat Esther), Aline Kominsky Crumb (Need More Love), James Sturm (The Golem’s Mighty Swing), Leela Corman (Unterzakhn), Ari Folman and David Polonsky (Waltz with Bashir), David Mairowitz and Robert Crumb’s biography of Kafka, and many more. He also examines the work of a select few non-Jewish artists, such as Robert Crumb and Basil Wolverton, both of whom have created graphic adaptations of parts of the Hebrew Bible.
Among the topics he discusses are graphic novel adaptations of the Bible; the Holocaust graphic novel; graphic novels about the Jews in Eastern and Western Europe and Africa, and the American Jewish immigrant experience; graphic novels about the lives of Jewish women; the Israel-centered graphic novel; and the Orthodox graphic novel. The book concludes with an extensive bibliography.
No study of Jewish literature and art today can be complete without a survey of the graphic novel, and scholars, students, and graphic novel fans alike will delight in Tabachnick’s guide to this world of thought, sensibility, and artfulness.
Universal equality is a treasured political concept in France, but recent anxiety over the country’s Muslim minority has led to an emphasis on a new form of universalism, one promoting loyalty to the nation at the expense of all ethnic and religious affiliations. This timely book offers a fresh perspective on the debate by showing that French equality has not always demanded an erasure of differences. Through close and contextualized readings of the way that major novelists, philosophers, filmmakers, and political figures have struggled with the question of integrating Jews into French society, Maurice Samuels draws lessons about how the French have often understood the universal in relation to the particular.
Samuels demonstrates that Jewish difference has always been essential to the elaboration of French universalism, whether as its foil or as proof of its reach. He traces the development of this discourse through key moments in French history, from debates over granting Jews civil rights during the Revolution, through the Dreyfus Affair and Vichy, and up to the rise of a “new antisemitism” in recent years. By recovering the forgotten history of a more open, pluralistic form of French universalism, Samuels points toward new ways of moving beyond current ethnic and religious dilemmas and argues for a more inclusive view of what constitutes political discourse in France.
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.
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. 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.
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."
". . . 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.
Portrayed as dubious moneylenders, underworld operatives, megalomaniacs, Bolshevik saboteurs, or unscrupulous war-profiteers, Jewish characters have surfaced in English detective fiction from the very beginning. Starting with Conan Doyle, and focusing on the Golden Age of the genre, Tunrbull uses multiple examples to trace the evolution of Jewish caricature in British crime writing, and examines fictional representations of Jews in relation to burgeoning antisemitic sentiment within British society. Attention is paid to crime writers as wide-ranging as Baroness Orczy, Sydney Horler, R. Austin Freeman, Ngaio Marsh, and S. T. Haymon, and the depiction of Jews by Golden Age giants Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, and Anthony Berkeley Cox.
While Jews figure in the work of many modern Latin American writers, the questions of how and to what end they are represented have received remarkably little critical attention. Helping to correct this imbalance, Erin Graff Zivin traces the symbolic presence of Jews and Jewishness in late-nineteenth- through late-twentieth-century literary works from Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, and Nicaragua. Ultimately, Graff Zivin’s investigation of representations of Jewishness reveals a broader, more complex anxiety surrounding difference in modern Latin American culture.
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.
Through a detailed analysis of medieval Spain's best known literary works, this book examines two common images of woman--the sexually attractive matron of the Christian upper classes, and the beautiful, pure, and sexually ripe upper-class Muslim or Jewish woman who is submissive to Christians. Suggesting a link between these images and the issues of political and military power, religious difference, and language in the context of reconquest Castile, the book argues that female representation in the literature provides a resolution of Christian-Muslim military conflict.
This volume is the first in the field of medieval Hispanic studies to reexamine the canon in the light of recent critical work on language, gender, power, and the effects of domination. It shows how the texts imaginarily liberate Christian women from the authority of their husbands, in order to demonstrate how women's access to the discourses of power leads to tragedy and ruin for the men who fail to silence them.
Women, Jews, and Muslims in the Texts of Reconquest Castile makes the argument that dominant-"other" struggle, waged on the terrains of gender, religion, and war, is the most appropriate paradigm for discussing literary texts produced in the last centuries of reconquest. More than any other culture, medieval Spain reminds us of the provisional nature of national, religious, and sexual identity.
Exploring the gendering of subjects in society, the volume will be of interest to those in cultural and gender studies, Hispanic studies, medieval studies, and Middle Eastern studies. All texts are translated, and maps and illustrations help orient the reader.
Louise Mirrer is Professor and Chair, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Minnesota.
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.