ENGLISH 383 - Jewish Literature
Section: 001 Postwar Jewish Fiction
Term: FA 2019
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

What does a Jewish novelist write about in the wake of the Nazis?

Well, about the death camps (Imre Kertesz’s Fatelessness, 1975) and their aftermath (Romain Gary’s The Life before Us, 1975). But also about America’s past, whether real (E. L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, 1975) or imagined (Philip Roth, The Plot against America, 2004), the recent deadly war in the Balkans (Geraldine Brooks, People of the Book, 2008), and contemporary Israel (David Grossman, A Horse Walks into a Bar, 2014).

An important aim of the course is thus to confound expectations based on group identity, to broaden our sense of what it means to write within an ethnic, religious, or, really, any other tradition. If you think you know what a Jewish novel is, one purpose of this course is to convince you that you do not.

Accordingly, we’ll study these sometimes intense, often wildly funny, and always engrossing novels of the last 45 years with an eye partly on their shared features but especially on their variety. Since 1945, important writers of Jewish descent, some of them Nobel Laureates, have composed literature on all six significantly inhabited continents in more than 15 languages in over two dozen countries—often far from traditional centers of Jewish culture, achievement, or mistreatment.

We’ll read equally in foreign-language and American works—novels that range from those profoundly concerned with Jewish experience to those that accord it only peripheral status: half of the protagonists of these novels are not Jewish. The issues we’ll consider—exile, emigration, and assimilation; race, gender, and sexuality; religious and ethnic identity; historical memory; national and international politics; social justice—are relevant to other groups. So, too, are the specifically literary concerns—with realism, modernism, and postmodernism.

Our readings happen to fall in two sub-eras: the 1970s and the 21st century. Is the chronological difference meaningful, or are there more important ways of connecting or distinguishing these texts?

Course Requirements:

Writing: 3 five-page papers.

ENGLISH 383 - Jewish Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
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