2:30p-3:45p TR (30) 3 cr.
TOPIC: AMERICAN JEWISH LITERATURE
Beginning in the early decades of the twentieth century, American
literature broadened its
mainstream tradition to include a type of author seldom seen in
earlier periods. I refer to
our ethnic writers, whose works reveal just how culturally complex
American life can be.
This course, devoted to a study of some representative Jewish writers,
will aim to clarify
several major aspects of this complexity, all of them rooted in a
sense of history older and
wider than America’s own.
We shall begin by reflecting on the Eastern European origins of
American-Jewish writing and
then try to see how our writers link the major traditions of American
traditions that derive from the European past. Accordingly, our
concerns will be with both
the connections and the confrontations between old world and new and
with how literature
tries to negotiate a balance between them. In studying a body of
writing that registers a
strong sense of history as well as a strong will towards modernity, we
shall come to better
understand some of the notable accomplishments of recent American
literature as well as some
of the tensions and contradictions inherent in the American
Among other matters, we shall take up the following: How can
American-Jewish writers help us
understand the nature of the American character? How can they help us
understand what it
means to be an American Jew? What do they have to tell us about the
place and importance in
our lives of love, work, the family, religion, education, the
freedom, communal loyalty? These and related questions will form the
core of our
discussions over the course of the semester.
The list of required readings is not yet finished, but it is likely to
include such authors
as the following: Mary Antin, Abraham Cahan, Bernard Malamud, Saul
Bellow, Philip Roth,
Cynthia Ozick, I.B. Singer, and Anne Roiphe.
The course is open to all students with an interest in the subject
matter and a willingness
to do the assigned readings on schedule. Regular attendance of all
class meetings is
expected, as is active participation in class discussion. Written work
will include in-class
as well as out-of-class examinations and a term paper.