ENGL 3011: Jewish American Literature: Religion, Culture, and the Immigrant Experience

3 CreditsHistorical PerspectivesRace, Power, and Justice in the United States

Immigrant? Jewish? American? What do these labels mean, why are they applied, and do they ever cease to be applicable? Can we distinguish religion from culture, and what are the implications when we try? Why is it frequently asked whether Saul Bellow was \"really\" a Jewish writer, but it is impossible to read Philip Roth as anything other than that? How does Grace Paley's \"Jewishness\" come through even when she is writing about non-Jewish characters? We will address these issues and others as we explore the literature growing out of the Jewish immigrant experience in America, as well as the literature by Jewish writers more firmly, though still sometimes anxiously, rooted in American soil. In this course we will engage in a highly contextualized and historicized study of Jewish American literature from the 19th century to today. We will discover in these texts how inherited Jewish culture and literary imaginings, developed over centuries of interaction between Jewish communities and the \"outside world,\" get reexamined, questioned, rejected, reimagined, reintegrated, and transformed within the crucible of American experience. The discussions that ensue will also provide a framework for engaging with the creative energies and cultural productivity of more recent immigrant communities in the United States and beyond. Immigration and the experience of immigrant communities continues to be at the forefront of American consciousness, as immigrants work to create new meanings and new narratives for their lives, and as those who immigrated before them provide contested meanings for the impact of immigration on their own narratives. This course, though grounded in Jewish narratives, will therefore provide students with an expanded vocabulary and perspective for engaging in this central and very current debate within the American experience.

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