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Jewish American and Holocaust Literature

Representation in the Postmodern World

Alan L. Berger, Gloria L. Cronin

Publication Year: 2004

Deepens and enriches our understanding of the Jewish literary tradition and the implications of the Shoah. Challenging the notion that Jewish American and Holocaust literature have exhausted their limits, this volume reexamines these closely linked traditions in light of recent postmodern theory. Composed against the tumultuous background of great cultural transition and unprecedented state-sponsored systematic murder, Jewish American and Holocaust literature both address the concerns of postmodern human existence in extremis. In addition to exploring how various mythic and literary themes are deconstructed in the lurid light of Auschwitz, this book provides critical reassessments of Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, and Philip Roth, as well as contemporary Jewish American writers who are extending this vibrant tradition into the new millennium. These essays deepen and enrich our understanding of the Jewish literary tradition and the implications of the Shoah.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture


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pp. ix-x

The editors acknowledge with thanks the following people. Sarah Anne Bylund, Professor Cronin's research/technical assistant, worked hard on source checking, typing, preliminary editing and formatting, and communication with all the contributors to this volume. Currently, she is pursuing an M.A. in American literature at Brigham Young University...

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pp. 1-10

New beginnings always occasion reflection on the past. This inexorable rule of human behavior applies especially to the cultural realm where innovation is in constant, and frequently creative, tension with what has gone before. Thus, the dawn of the new millennium is an appropriate moment to view two related literary genres, which have to a large extent shaped twentieth-century literature. Jewish American...

1: Holocaust Literature

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1. Hidden Children: The Literature of Hiding

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pp. 13-30

Speaking of his experience as a hidden child during the Holocaust, the Israeli psychologist Shlomo Breznitz recalls his father's comment that "hiding at best only delays the final outcome." The elder Breznitz believed that hiding was pointless because "sooner or later the Germans would find everybody; their hunting of Jews was too systematic...

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2. An Eye on a Scrap of the World: Ida Fink's Witnesses

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pp. 31-42

In an essay in the collected work, Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the Final Solution titled, "German Memory, Judicial Interrogation, and Historical Reconstruction: Writing Perpetrator History from Postwar Testimony," Christopher Browning points to the limits inherent in writing the narrative of perpetrator...

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3. Jerzy Kosinski: Did He or Didn't He?

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pp. 43-56

In the June 22, 1982, issue of New York's Village Voice, an article was published by Geoffrey Stokes with Eliot Fremont-Smith under the humorless, ambiguous title "Jerzy Kosinski's Tainted Words"—clearly an ugly play on the novelist's first work of fiction, The Painted Bird. The thesis of the newspaper piece was that Kosinski...

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4. By the Light of Darkness: Six Major European Writers Who Experienced the Holocaust

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pp. 57-76

My subject is the work in translation of six major twentieth-century European writers who experienced the Holocaust: Anne Frank, Etty Hillesum, Jacob Presser, Emmanuel Ringelblum, Tadeusz Borowski, and Primo Levi. I've chosen the writers whom I consider to be the best stylists on that subject. The five adults among them share a common theme—a vision of the Holocaust as a new historical reality...

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5. Memory and Collective Identity: Narrative Strategies Against Forgetting in Contemporary Literary Responses to the Holocaust

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pp. 77-92

At the outset of The Bellarosa Connection (1989), Saul Bellow's treatment of Holocaust survival in the context of memory and forgetting, the narrator, looking back on his professional life as a kind of historian of twentieth- century consciousness, pronounces that "if you have worked in memory, which is life itself, there is no retirement except in death."2 Bellow here expresses what Alvin Rosenfeld...

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6. The Rendition of Memory in Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl"

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pp. 93-102

As a fiction writer, the commitment to remembering the past is fundamentally important to Cynthia Ozick. "To Holocaust Literature The Shawl is undeniably of huge importance."1 In addition, it represents a landmark within Cynthia Ozick's career because it is her only work so far that deals directly with a Holocaust survivor...

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7. A Speck of Dust Blown by the Wind Across Land and Desert: Images of the Holocaust in Lanzmann, Singer, and Appelfeld

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pp. 103-114

On the issue of preoccupation with historical memory, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the nineteenth-century American essayist, critic, and transcendental thinker, once pointedly remarked with a metaphor only too chilling...

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8. Writing to Break the Frozen Seas Within: The Power of Fiction in the Writings of Norma Rosen and Rebecca Goldstein

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pp. 115-124

In Rebecca Goldstein's masterful work, "The Legacy of Raizel Kaidish: A Story,"1 we encounter a family indelibly marked by the Shoah. Young Raizel and her survivor-parents know no reprieve from its insistent, haunting presence. Every aspect of their life together is inextricably bound to the legacy of death camps, selections, and the never-ending trauma of guilt and self-hatred...

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9. Art and Atrocity in a Post-9/11 World

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pp. 125-136

We now live in a time of terror. It preys on our fears and vulnerability, and provides all the necessary justification for having those fears in the first place—because the threats are real. That's what terrorism does. It puts images that would otherwise live on only as fantasy into our head, with real antecedents, tangible proof that our fears...

2: Jewish American Literature

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10. Africanity and the Collapse of American Culture in the Novels of Saul Bellow

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pp. 139-156

Fundamental to the works of Western modernity and American literature in particular are their enduring fascination with the "primitive" Other. For the most part, this antibourgoise impulse manifests itself in curiosity about the life forms of people who have not been thoroughly industrialized, or even "civilized" in the modern...

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11. The Jewish Journey of Saul Bellow: From Secular Satirist to Spiritual Seeker

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pp. 157-166

Some time ago, a Fuller Brush man came to Saul Bellow's door and tried to sell him his wares. When he got nowhere with him, he finally demanded, "Won't you even take it as a gift?" Bellow replied, "I've been given the gift of life, and it's more than I know what to do with"...

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12. Philip Roth and Jewish American Literature at the Millennium

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pp. 167-178

The brochure for the American Literature Association conference from which this volume of essays emerged asked the participants to address the future of Jewish American and Holocaust literature within the study of American literature, to envision the future audience for this literature and the scholarship that attends it, and to ponder its place on the maps of ethnic and cultural studies...

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13. Malamud and Ozick: Kindred "Neshamas

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pp. 179-184

Separated by gender, religious practice, and lifestyle, Bernard Malamud and Cynthia Ozick would appear to share little but their accidents of birth and choice of craft as twentieth-century Jewish American authors. Indeed, they even define themselves differently, since Malamud describes himself as a "writer who happens to be Jewish," while Ozick sees herself as a writer in the Jewish tradition...

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14. Myth and Addiction in Jonathan Rosen's "Eve's Apple"

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pp. 185-200

I became interested in Jonathan Rosen's novel Eve's Apple when I heard Rosen speak on the history of the Forward (an American Jewish newspaper out of New York) at the annual Jewish American Literature Conference in Boca Raton, Florida in 1999. I admired his presence; he was confident, knowledgeable, and had a sophistication about him that drew me to believe in his motives for doing scholarship...

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15. Evolving Paradigms of Jewish Women in Twentieth-Century American Jewish Fiction: Through a Male Lens/ Through a Female Lens

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pp. 201-222

The radically divergent portraits of Jewish women in mid and late twentiethcentury Jewish American fiction are, more often than not, a reflection of the gender of the author. Jewish women are rarely adequately contextualized either historically or culturally, but are frequently the subject of satire and calumny in texts written by men...

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16. After the Melting Pot: Jewish Women Writers and the Man in the Wrong Clothes

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pp. 223-234

At an informal gathering in Los Angeles, a group of Jewish academics was discussing anthropologist Karen Brodkin Sacks' essay, "How Did Jews Become White Folks?"1 The more we spoke, the more the air grew palpably tense, as if, whether we were admitting it or not, the narratives of our personal and professional...

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17. Restarting Jewish Mothers

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pp. 235-242

Because we know from our earliest memories the power and pleasure of "once upon a time," making stories comes as second nature to us all. When we try to explain to ourselves the puzzling behavior of a child or friend, when we struggle to connect the bewilderment of this moment to a future we desire (or to a past that we regret...


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pp. 243-248


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pp. 249-255

E-ISBN-13: 9780791484449
E-ISBN-10: 0791484440
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791462096
Print-ISBN-10: 0791462099

Page Count: 266
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture

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Subject Headings

  • Judaism and literature -- United States.
  • Jews -- United States -- Intellectual life.
  • Holocaust survivors in literature.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature.
  • Postmodernism (Literature) -- United States.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- United States -- Literature and the war.
  • American literature -- Jewish authors -- History and criticism.
  • Judaism in literature.
  • Jews in literature.
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