What do we know about modern Yiddish culture? What are its origins and how did it develop? Who were its major writers and what were the themes, social structures, literary forms of primary concern to them? In this course we will answer these and other questions by reading the fiction of three writers: Sh.Y. Abramovitch (also known as Mendele Moykher Sforim, the “grandfather” of Yiddish literature), Sholem Aleichem, and Y.L. Peretz. Their short stories and novels are considered the classics of modern Yiddish literature and offer a provocative introduction into the Eastern European Jewish milieu in which they wrote and the historical, political, social and economic transformations of the late 19th-early 20th century.
We will also consider some of the adaptations made of their work in Yiddish and English drama and film, and some of the changes made when their stories and novels were brought to an American audience.
Requirements for the course include weekly reading assignments, some in-class 1-page responses, active classroom participation, two 6-8 page essays, and a take-home final.
All readings will be in English translation. No knowledge of Yiddish is required for this course.
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