Modern Jewish Literatures

Is there such a thing as a distinctive Jewish literature? The authors of the fifteen essays in this volume find the answer in a shared endeavor to use literary production and writing in general as the laboratory in which to explore and represent Jewish experience in the modern world.

Modern Jewish Literatures
Intersections and Boundaries

Edited by Sheila E. Jelen, Michael P. Kramer, and L. Scott Lerner

2010 | 368 pages | Cloth $65.00

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Table of Contents

—David B. Ruderman
Introduction: Intersections and Boundaries in Modern Jewish Literary Study
—Sheila E. Jelen, Michael P. Kramer, L. Scott Lerner

Chapter 1. Literary Culture and Jewish Space around 1800: The Berlin Salons Revisited
—Liliane Weissberg
Chapter 2. Joseph Salvador's Jerusalem Lost and Jerusalem Regained
—L. Scott Lerner
Chapter 3. The Merchant at the Threshold: Rashel Khin, Osip Mandelstam, and the Poetics of Apostasy
—Amelia Glaser
Chapter 4. Shmuel Saadi Halevy/Sam Lévy Between Ladino and French: Reconstructing a Writer's Social Identity
—Olga Borovaya
Chapter 5. I. L. Peretz's "Between Two Mountains": Neo-Hasidism and Jewish Literary Modernity
—Nicham Ross
Chapter 6. Neither Here nor There: The Critique of Ideological Progress in Sholem Aleichem's Kasrilevke Stories
—Marc Caplan
Chapter 7. Brenner: Between Hebrew and Yiddish
—Anita Shapira
Chapter 8. Eisig Silberschlag and the Persistence of the Erotic in American Hebrew Poetry
—Alan Mintz
Chapter 9. The Art of Sex in Yiddish Poems: Celia Dropkin and Her Contemporaries
—Kathryn Hellerstein
Chapter 10. Ethnopoetics in the Works of Malkah Shapiro and Ita Kalish: Gender, Popular Ethnography, and the Literary Face of Jewish Eastern Europe
—Sheila E. Jelen
Chapter 11. Eternal Jews and Dead Dogs: The Diasporic Other in Natan Alterman's The Seventh Column
—Gideon Nevo
Chapter 12. Inserted Notes: David Boder's DP Interview Project and the Languages of the Holocaust
—Alan Rosen
Chapter 13. Unpacking My Father's Bookstore
—Laurence Roth
Chapter 14. The Art of Assimilation: Ironies, Ambiguities, Aesthetics
—Michael P. Kramer
Chapter 15. Hebraism and Yiddishism: Paradigms of Modern Jewish Literary History
—Anita Norich

List of Contributors

Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]

David B. Ruderman

This book emerges from the yearlong project at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania on the topic "Modern Jewish Literatures: Language, Identity, Writing." This was the first seminar at the Center devoted exclusively to literary studies, and it brought together some twenty scholars of literature, as well as one distinguished historian working on a literary topic, during the academic year 2004-5.

What was unique about the group, I think, was its wide diversity: experts in Yiddish, modern Hebrew, and Ladino literatures mixed with scholars of French, German, Arabic, Russian, English, and American writing, all grappling with the elusive subject of what Jewish literature might be if it were not necessarily defined by language or geography. While the group had been carefully selected to include a strong representation of specialists in Hebrew and Yiddish, the voices of those who worked in other traditions were highly audible. In so heterogeneous a group, there were often strong disagreement and heated exchange, and it was clear that the critics of Israeli literature felt that Diasporic literary production had challenged the privileged place they had assumed for Hebrew studies. But the members of the seminar were always courteous and respectful of their colleagues, even when strongly disagreeing with one another. What ultimately united the participants was a shared sense of the importance of literary studies for our understanding of the creativity of Jews over time and space.

This volume has been skillfully shaped by three thoughtful and industrious editors: Sheila Jelen, who works primarily in Hebrew literature; Scott Lerner, a scholar of French and Italian; and Michael Kramer, whose area of specialization is American Jewish literature. I am grateful to them for their hard work, for their conceptualization of the volume, and for their eloquent introduction, which not only contextualizes the variegated essays historically and thematically but also offers an important intervention in its own right on the perplexing question of what is Jewish literature. And of course, I wish to thank everyone, whether included in this volume or not, who participated in a glorious year of research, dialogue, and learning at the Katz Center.