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128 SHOFAR The Politics of Interpretation: A1terity and Ideology in Old Yiddish Studies, by Jerold C. Frakes. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. 283 pp. $49.50. This book had its inception in two articles (in turn the outgrowth of papers presented at professional conferences) which were considerably expanded into chapters two and three. To these the author added a preface, a discussion of ideology and alterity (chapter one) and a concluding chapter, as well as an appendix, notes, bibliography, and indices. It is essentially the most recent attempt to provide an overview and critique of research in the field of Old Yiddish studies along with the professed attempt to discover and conceptualize the sociological-ideological forces at play in the field over the last several decades. Both attempts meet with moderate success. But like most books this one has both good and bad points. It is unfortunate that the latter are numerous and rather disquieting. Mr. Frakes has several idiosyncracies as a writer and scholar, only a few of which in the interest of space can be mentioned. Perhaps the most pervasive tendency is his failure to adhere to his own scholarly precepts. It could be designated as the scholarly application of the double standard. His major and most often repeated criticism of previous work(s) is inconsistency (d. chapters two and three). Yet he himself is rather inconsistent. For example, in his discussion of the works by Erika Timm (an excellent scholar) he gives on p. 176 two versions of a direct quote from her-one in English (apparently his own translation) followed by one in German and in parentheses. Yet he fails to cite a page number or work drawn on (nor does he provide an endnote identii)ring the source). On p. 177 he cites Ms. Timm in English with a page number, but with no German version. Further; on p. 178 he cites her in German followed in the next sentence by an English quote, but with no page numbers and no endnote for either quote. Finally, on p. 179 he cites her extensively in German and provides a page number, but gives no version in English. Such inconsistencies as this are numerous throughout his work. Another instance of his double standard is to be found on p. 220, endnote 112. He states unequivocally: "... it seems that uninformed, chauvinistic , and anecdotal generalizations-whether clothed in scientific garb or not-need not be propagated, and certainly have no place in the scholarly forum "-the very "sin" which he himself commits in his preface. Fortunately, the reader is spared most of his "anecdotal generalization" due to a printing error: p. ix is missing and p. xi is in its place. Nevertheless, the contents of p. ix are obvious. (As a marginal note one cannot overlook the fact that in this preface Mr. Frakes commits a deplorable breach of professional courtesy, to Volume 9. No.1 Fall1990 129 say the least. To label any scholar "insignificant" [po xiv] is simply rude. In the next paragraph he thanks all those who offered him "much needed and sometimes heeded" cricitism and advice. It seems that in this case certain necessary criticism and advice was either not given or not heeded.) One could cite several other negative aspects of this work (e.g., his bibliographical work is in several places quite selective), but his basic flaw throughout this endeavor is his failure to live up to the standards which he expects of others. There are certain sections is this book which are very readable and commendable. His discussion of alterity in this field is highly interesting (although his discussion of ideology is too long and tedious). At times he expresses views which are obvious, but which due to their obviousness were not expressed elsewhere (cf., for example, pp. 185-186). His work contains much valuable and cogent criticism and information (if one can cope with numerous and extensive endnotes, most of which could and should have been incorporated into the text). In the final analysis, Mr. Frakes comes across as a very energetic and intelligent person, but this book comes across as a "rush to print" effort. John A...


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