AMS 370 • Key Yiddish Novels
3:00 PM-4:00 PM
To encounter the key Yiddish novels of America and Eastern Europe is to discover a rich autonomous culture whose literary artifacts carry meaning in themselves and echo into the surrounding cultures into which Jews settled. Yiddish literature reflects a minority culture grappling with Westernization, modernism and accomodation with all the normative Third World anxieties in the cultural interface with the surrounding majority culture. Yiddish literature reflects the aspirations of a new secular culture while facing deterritorialization and the exasperations of fighting dying traditions and espousing attractive alien ones. The Yiddish novel is the perfect hybridic expresssion of the new secular Jewish world caught in transition and migration from Russia to America. We shall read the Tevye texts [Fiddler on the Roof] of Sholem Aleykhem and his brilliant novel of immigration to New York, Motl the Orphan. We shall watch the Russification of Jews in Bergelsons After All is Said and Done and the enforced Sovietization in Kulbaks Zelmanyaner. Americanization shall occupy Sholem Aschs East River and Shadows on the Hudson of Bashevis Singer. We shall read works of the Yiddish women writers whose feminist perspective provides a double barreled attack on oppression from the Other defined both as the Outsider and the Jewish male! (Not to mention the celebration of their own eroticism!) In short, Yiddish literature soars with cultural ammunition reflecting most of the worlds anxieties today as small town traditional life yields to both socialist and capitalist utopias which promise much and deliver little ecologically, economically or socially to re-center and provide well-being to ordinary lives. Yet the Yiddish novels point to the pluck and spurt of Yiddish and Jewish literary creativity that subverted the demands of assimilation and brought forth a new literary culture that stands as a monument to cultural resistance and cultural renaissance.
Sholem Aleykhem, Tevye and his Daughters; Motl the Orphan Sholem Asch, East River Dovid Bergelson, When All is Said and Done Moshe Kulbak, Zelmanyaner Isaac Bashevis Singer, Shadows on the Hudson Esther Singer Kreitman, Deborah