Abstract

This essay deals with the controversy between the advocates of the Soviet proletarian and American modernist branches of Yiddish literature in the 1920s. Moshe Litvakov, the leading Soviet Yiddish ideologue, claimed that the October Revolution created an unbridgeable gap between bourgeois and proletarian Yiddish cultures, and therefore Soviet Yiddish literature should hold cultural and ideological hegemony in the world of Yiddish. Yiddish writers abroad had to accept the Soviet leadership and adhere to its line. The encounter with the Soviet claim for hegemony compelled American Yiddish modernists to rethink their position with respect to the past. The poet and critic Mikhl Likht, the major proponent of the aesthetics of Anglo-American modernism in Yiddish literature, sought to reestablish continuity not with the immediate predecessors, but with the medieval Yiddish poetry that he believed was closer to the European tradition. By the 1930s, however, with the decline of spoken Yiddish, the establishment of the Stalinist dictatorship, and the rise of antisemitism in Europe, this debate became irrelevant.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3311
Print ISSN
0272-9601
Pages
pp. 204-228
Launched on MUSE
2001-05-01
Open Access
No
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