INAF-290 Jewish-American Literature
Spring for 2017-2018
This course explores the fiction of a wide variety of contemporary Jewish authors working in the post-Holocaust era. The body of work that they have produced may be described as comic, dark, critical of self (and others), and, quite often, exceedingly disturbing. These writers, however, can rarely be described as boring.
Throughout the semester we will cling to an analytical distinction in which how an author writes is contrasted to what an author writes about. This separation of form and content is performed under the artificial laboratory conditions of literary analysis. Form and content, needless to say, are inextricably bound and comprise an organic unity. Be that as it may, we will often employ this distinction in our study of the novels, novellas, and short stories that we encounter this semester.
In terms of form, the questions we ask are simple (though the answers we will come across are decidedly not): how is the work of literary art built? Why did the author decide to narrate the story in this particular manner and what advantages and disadvantages resulted from this decision? How is the overall work structured? How might we describe the prose style of the writer in question? What are the technical strengths and weaknesses of the author? What literary influences can be identified? What is unique or idiosyncratic about his or her artistry?
In terms of content, we will notice that certain themes recur in nearly all of the works selected for scrutiny. Using a kind of shorthand we will organize our semester around some recurring obsessions of Jewish-American writers (many of which bleed into one another): “Holocaust,” “Israel,” “American Jews and ‘Others,’” and “Immigrant Stories.”
As the term progresses we will come across recurring motifs which might be described as: “the emasculated diaspora Jew”: “the lonely protagonist”: “Jewish women for and against Judaism”: “an American Jew in Israel”: “the eternal immigrant”: “assimilation and its discontents”: “the lure of the secular”: “orthodoxy and modernity”: “the oversexed Jew/ess”: and “the (dysfunctional) Jewish family.”
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: