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Growing Up Ethnic

Nationalism and the Bildungsroman in African American and Jewish American Fiction

Martin Japtok

Publication Year: 2005

Growing Up Ethnic examines the presence of literary similarities between African American and Jewish American coming-of-age stories in the first half of the twentieth century; often these similarities exceed what could be explained by sociohistorical correspondences alone. Martin Japtok argues that these similarities result from the way both African American and Jewish American authors have conceptualized their "ethnic situation." The issue of "race" and its social repercussions certainly defy any easy comparisons. However, the fact that the ethnic situations are far from identical in the case of these two groups only highlights the striking thematic correspondences in how a number of African American and Jewish American coming-of-age stories construct ethnicity. Japtok studies three pairs of novels--James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man and Samuel Ornitz's Haunch, Paunch and Jowl, Jessie Fauset's Plum Bun and Edna Ferber's Fanny Herself, and Paule Marshall's Brown Girl, Brownstones and Anzia Yezierska's Bread Giver--and argues that the similarities can be explained with reference to mainly two factors, ultimately intertwined: cultural nationalism and the Bildungsroman genre. Growing Up Ethnic shows that the parallel configurations in the novels, which often see ethnicity in terms of spirituality, as inherent artistic ability, and as communal responsibility, are rooted in nationalist ideology. However, due to the authors' generic choice--the Bildungsroman--the tendency to view ethnicity through the rhetorical lens of communalism and spiritual essence runs head-on into the individualist assumptions of the protagonist-centered Bildungsroman. The negotiations between these ideological counterpoints characterize the novels and reflect and refract the intellectual ferment of their time. This fresh look at ethnic American literatures in the context of cultural nationalism and the Bildungsroman will be of great interest to students and scholars of literary and race studies.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

This book developed over time and has undergone extensive revisions and rewritings. Naturally, I owe a debt of gratitude to those who guided me through this process, especially Michael Kramer at the University of California, Davis, who...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-28

Starting in the early twentieth century with Jewish participation in Civil Rights organizations, but with much increased intensity from the 1960s on, a wealth of books, articles, and editorials has been published as part of an ongoing discussion about...

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1. The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man and Haunch, Paunch and Jowl: Two Versions of Passing

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pp. 29-70

The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man and Haunch, Paunch and Jowl serve here as the first two examples of ethnic literary revisions of the Bildungsroman. Both are also parodies of the autobiographical genre, particularly the autobiographical success story...

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2. Fanny Herself and Plum Bun: Art and Ethnic Solidarity

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pp. 71-102

Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun was published in 1929 by Frederick E. Stokes in the U.S. and by Elkin, Mathews and Marrot in London, receiving mostly positive reviews upon appearance. Criticism of it, however, focused on its gentility and middle-class values...

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3. Brown Girl, Brownstones and Bread Givers: Reconciling Ethnicity and Individualism

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pp. 103-133

Although thirty-four years separate the publication dates of Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers (1925) and Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959), and though significant historical events and social changes mark those years...

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4. Ethnic Nationalism and Ethnic Literary Responses

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pp. 134-156

Julia Wright has said that “Blake, in his own inimitable way, is articulating one of the fundamental precepts of the nationalism that emerged in Europe in the late eighteenth century, namely that culture is the tie that binds a nation together into a...

Notes

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pp. 157-182

Works Cited

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pp. 183-195

Index

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pp. 197-201


E-ISBN-13: 9781587295942

Page Count: 213
Publication Year: 2005