Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This article seeks to explore the intricate correlations between space, identity, and belonging in "landscapes" of difference. The genre of immigrant literature offers excellent terrain for probing the complexity of identity-related matters because of its profound concern with human, spatial, and sociocultural difference. In examining three Jewish-American narratives—Abraham Cahan's Yekl (1896), Rose Cohen's Out of the Shadow (1918), and Anzia Yezierska's Hungry Hearts (1920)—which share as their primary setting the Jewish immigrant ghetto on New York's Lower East Side as it existed between the 1880s and the 1920s, the article illuminates various instances that demonstrate that people's perception of others and themselves—their sense of identity and belonging—is closely linked to their identification with their immediate surroundings. More importantly, these instances provide meaningful insights into the everyday realities of immigrant life, particularly as regards its emotional side. At the center of interest are everyday "landscapes" of difference: the ghetto's street environs, its tenement homes, and work environments in sweatshops and factories. "Landscape" is understood spatially, figuratively, and textually, for a discourse on difference and Otherness naturally entails a rhetoric of contrast and comparison.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-5077
Print ISSN
0271-9274
Pages
pp. 43-83
Launched on MUSE
2021-02-27
Open Access
No
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