Land, Legacy, and Return: Negotiating a Post-Assimilationist Stance in Allegra Goodman's Kaaterskill Falls
- Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies
- University of Nebraska Press
- Volume 22, Number 3, Spring 2004
- pp. 26-42
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In this paper I situate Goodman's novel against the Jewish American literary tradition of the earlier part of this century in order to argue that Goodman uses the inheritances of that tradition to formulate a new post-assimilationist stance. Taking into account both the sacred traditions of Judaism and the secular influences through which American Jewry has, in large part, defined itself, I examine how the ideas of legacy, exchange, and return function in the text for both its secular and Orthodox Jewish characters. The paper is divided into three main sections: the first, "Land," looks at how divisions between the sacred and the secular tend to be centered around anxious sites of real estate and development. The second, "Space and place," reads the construction of interiority and exteriority in the text as a way to articulate the difficult process of retaining the spiritual and practical boundaries that have been inherited into the Jewish tradition, while at the same time understanding what it means to traverse those boundaries and enter into a more secular space where traditional legacy becomes exchangeable. The final section, "Return," traces Goodman's ultimate renewal of Jewish American literature as she points her characters back towards religion, community, and/or family and figures their return as evidence of an inheritance that remembers and practices American freedom within the paradigm of Jewish orthodoxy.