The Cambridge Companion to Jewish American Literature

The Cambridge Companion to Jewish American Literature

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: B00A4A66L8

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Jewish Americans produced some of the most important writing in the U.S. in the twentieth century. This Companion addresses the distinctive Jewish American contribution to American literary criticism, poetry and popular culture.

It establishes the broadest possible context for the discussion of Jewish American identity as it intersects with the corpus of American literature.

Featuring a chronology and guide to further reading, the volume is valuable to scholars and students alike.


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both in Europe and Palestine had been shut down, and when such figures as David Ben-Gurion, Yitshak Ben-Zvi, and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda were living in New York, it did not seem so improbable that a center of Hebrew culture could emerge in America. The achievements of the Hebrew movement in America can be divided into two spheres: culture and education, on one hand; literature, on the other. The two are really part of the same phenomenon; for the writers were often educators (as were their readers),

and distinctiveness of the American experience to suggest that American culture has always and necessarily been interactive with other cultures, emphasizing the modification of shared features in an American setting. Such rethinking has resulted in more than a reopening of the canon to accommodate a greater diversity of voices than in the past; it has also exposed, as Werner Sollors has argued, that the very distinction between “ethnic” and “American” is flawed – that many traits and values

Berg’s “faithful” representation of Jewish faith and observance – in conscious response to the Milt Gross style of raw dialect humor – inspired a certain pride in her Jewish listeners. In the process Berg herself became an emblem of nostalgia, a figure associated with, indeed, the incarnation of ethnic memory itself. Only in her early forties, Berg was nonetheless felt to be of the older generation, a symbol of an earlier mode of life. Although by the 1940s she lived surrounded by high culture on

to seize the unmasking, demystifying powers latent in Yiddish humor – its ability to see through pretension, its rich potential to expose, to reduce the mighty and awesome through the leveling playfulness of the earthy “other” tongue – and create in the process a parodic art. The Marx Brothers’ creative legacy of zany wordplay and wicked parody may be observed in figures like Mel Brooks and Sid Caesar who, along with a now legendary group of writers and performers (including a very young Woody

Jewish memory, therapeutically drawing out what is repressed in Michael (his buried Jewish identity, the pain of a son without a father), and what is desired by Michael (to be a part of something, above all to honor his father’s memory). “They remember us,” Michael’s cousin Melissa tells him, as they pore over old family pictures. By performing the bris, the episode implies that Michael’s blurred Jewish identity can achieve some focus. Acknowledging the obligations of the covenant confers an

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