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Unfinalized Moments

Essays in the Development of Contemporary Jewish American Fiction

Edited by Derek Parker Royal

Publication Year: 2007

Focusing on a diversely rich selection of writers, the pieces featured in Unfinalized Moments: Essays in the Development of Contemporary Jewish American Fiction explore the community of Jewish American writers who published their first book after the mid-1980s. It is the first book-length collection of essays on this subject matter with contributions from the leading scholars in the field. The manuscript does not attempt to foreground any one critical agenda, such as Holocaust writing, engagements with Zionism, feminist studies, postmodern influences, or multiculturalism. Instead, it celebrates the presence of a newly robust, diverse, and ever-evolving body of Jewish American fiction. This literature has taken a variety of forms with its negotiations of orthodoxy, its representations of a post-Holocaust world, its reassertion of folkloric tradition, its engagements with postmodernity, its reevaluations of Jewishness, and its alternative delineations of ethnic identity. Discussing the work of authors such as Allegra Goodman, Michael Chabon, Tova Mirvis, Rebecca Goldstein, Pearl Abraham, Jonathan Rosen, Nathan Englander, Melvin Jules Bukiet, Tova Reich, Sarah Schulman, Ruth Knafo Setton, Ben Katchor, and Jonathan Safran Foer, the fifteen contributors in this collection assert the ongoing vitality and ever-growing relevancy of Jewish American fiction.

Published by: Purdue University Press

Series: Shofar Supplements in Jewish Studies

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

First and foremost, I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to Daniel Morris and Zev Garber, co-editors of Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies. This volume actually began in a special issue I guest edited in 2004. Dan, in particular, was instrumental in helping...

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Unfinalized Moments: Essays in the Development of Contemporary Jewish American Narrative

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pp. 1-13

In Jewish American fiction studies, it has become common practice to reference Irving Howe’s pronouncement on what he saw as the waning influence of this literature— so much so, in fact, that the mere mention of it serves as a critical, if not hackneyed, rite of passage...

Part 1: Dialogues with Orthodoxy and History

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pp. 15-94

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“Hardly There Even When She Wasn’t Lost”: Orthodox Daughters and the “Mind-Body Problem” in Contemporary Jewish American Fiction

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pp. 17-32

In The Mind-Body Problem (1983), Rebecca Goldstein sets out to explore what she describes as the “mind-body problem,” the dichotomy between being perceived as either attractive or intellectual when the two are polarized and seen as mutually exclusive...

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Southern Discomfort: Revisiting the Jewish Question in Tova Mirvis’s The Ladies Auxiliary

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pp. 33-54

In January 1929, an essay entitled, “Why Are Jews Like That” appeared in American Magazine. The writer, a Jewish man named Lewis Browne, composed it as a response to his non-Jewish friend who had asked him, as they walked among a Jewish crowd in Manhattan...

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The Ethics of After: Melvin Jules Bukiet, Holocaust Fiction, and the Reemergence of an Ethical Sense in the Post-Holocaust World

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pp. 55-67

After the defeat of Nazi Germany and the liberation of the death camps in 1945, a great emergence of discussions occurred concerning any relationship between the Holocaust and a developed ethical sense. A dominant belief that evolved from this atrocity...

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The Second-Generation Holocaust Nonsurvivor: Third-Degree Metalepsis and Creative Block in Art Spiegelman’s Maus

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pp. 69-80

In the second chapter of Maus II (1991), Art Spiegelman, the son of Auschwitz survivor Vladek Spiegelman, is told by his psychologist that he, Art, and not his father who lived through Auschwitz, is the “REAL survivor.”1 It was the father who had experienced...

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“Unfinished Business”: Journeys to Eastern Europe in Thane Rosenbaum’s Second Hand Smoke and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated

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pp. 81-94

The back covers of each of the two volumes of Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1986, 1991) depict sets of superimposed maps: the first presents Poland during World War II as a background for a small map of Rego Park, Queens, while the second shows Birkenau surrounding...

Part 2: Folklore, Fantasy, and the Metanarrative

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pp. 95-149

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The Escapist: Fantasy, Folklore, and the Pleasures of the Comic Book in Recent Jewish American Holocaust Fiction

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pp. 97-111

Jewish American writers addressing the Holocaust in recent fiction have encountered a daunting set of moral and aesthetic difficulties. Among these are the seemingly unbridgeable historical divide between a relatively comfortable American Jewish present...

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A Tale Told About Idiots: The Chelm Story and Holocaust Representation

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pp. 113-123

In his short story, “The Tumblers,” Nathan Englander1 unites two seemingly incompatible genres: a Chelm story and a Holocaust story. Chelm—from Yiddish folklore in Eastern Europe—is a mythical town of fools, about which many comic stories...

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Laughter and Trembling: The Short Fiction of Steve Stern and Nathan Englander

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pp. 125-137

In an essay called “After the Law,” Steve Stern recounts an old Hasidic tale1 regarding the forest, the fire, and a prayer: The Baal Shem Tov, when he has a problem, goes to the forest, lights a fire, says a prayer, and finds wisdom...

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Metafictional Witnessing in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated

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pp. 139-149

Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2003 novel, Everything Is Illuminated inherently critiques the possibilities for writing the trauma of the Holocaust. This critique comes through in the very flaws of the complicated, metafictional narrative. As critics of the novel...

Part 3: (Re)inscribing Jewish Text and Identity

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pp. 151-199

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Putting the “Jewish” Back in “Jewish American Fiction”: A Look at Jewish American Fiction since 1977 and an Allegorical Reading of Nathan Englander’s “The Gilgul of Park Avenue”

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pp. 153-168

Almost thirty-five years have passed since Irving Howe made his famous statement that “Jewish American fiction has probably moved past its high point,”1 and no doubt some would argue that time has proven him right, that no younger writer has yet equaled...

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“Were it Not for the Yetzer Hara”: Eating, Knowledge, and the Physical in Jonathan Rosen’s Eve’s Apple

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pp. 169-177

Jonathan Rosen’s 1997 novel, Eve’s Apple has not fully joined the evolving canon of contemporary Jewish American fiction that seems to be enjoying a renaissance recently. In comparison to the works of Allegra Goodman, Nathan Englander, Steve Stern, and Pearl Abraham...

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The Sweetheart Is Outside Herself: Writing the Contemporary Jewish American Writer in S. L. Wisenberg’s Ceci Rubin Stories

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pp. 179-186

We’ve all been awaiting this generation—is it the third or the fourth?—of Jewish American writers. From at least the time of Irving Howe’s notorious pronouncement in 1977, the debate has raged over the death or re-birth of Jewish American literature, and it’s clear...

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Jewish American Fiction on the Border: Culture Confrontations, Double Consciousness, and Hybridity in the Work of Pearl Abraham

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pp. 187-199

From the concept of the melting pot to contemporary postcolonial and postethnic theories: the complexity of ethnic diversity and the negotiation between the notions of consent and descent in American society have preoccupied critics and scholars almost from...

Part 4: Authors in Their Own Words

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pp. 201

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Margins within the Margins: An Interview with Ruth Knafo Setton and Farideh Dayanim Goldin

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pp. 203-222

In the fall of 2007, I was invited to Lehigh University to give a lecture on Philip Roth’s fiction as part of the Philip and Muriel Berman Center Lecture Series. My host was Ruth Knafo Setton, the Moroccan-born writer in residence at Lehigh’s Berman Center...

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Picturing American Stories: An Interview with Ben Katchor

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pp. 223-243

One of the first things you notice when reading the work of Ben Katchor is its particularity. His comics are filled with eccentric characters who find themselves in off-beat encounters with reality. What is so ironic about these encounters is that they are set in the mundane...

Questions for Discussion

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pp. 245-246

Contemporary Jewish American Fiction: A Selected Bibliography

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pp. 247-250


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pp. 251-254


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pp. 255-267

E-ISBN-13: 9781612491622
E-ISBN-10: 1612491626
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557535849
Print-ISBN-10: 1557535841

Page Count: 330
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Shofar Supplements in Jewish Studies