English | American Jewish Writers
L241 | 2007 | Rosenfeld


2:30p-3:20p MWF (30) 3 cr

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 literature with 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 experience.

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
intellectual, individual 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.