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Dis/locating Recent Post-Soviet Jewish American Literature

Mon, December 18, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Dupont Circle Room

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Abstract

The session “Dis/locating Post-Soviet Jewish American Literature” focuses on recent works of fiction written by a cohort of Russian-speaking Jews in North America. While continuing the critical work of the 2016 special issue of EASTERN EUROPEAN JEWISH AFFAIRS “New Wave of Russian Jewish American Culture” devoted to many artistic genres, this panel focuses solely on literature and asks specifically about the possible literary locations of these texts. Addressing a number of representative works within this trend, our three papers point to literary connections between this body of literature and its Jewish American and (Jewish) Russian predecessors, as well as cultural identifications that these texts project. Margarita Levantovskaya’s paper explores literary influences between Lara Vapnyar, Irina Reyn, and Anya Ulinich and, on the other hand, canonical Russian and Jewish American authors under the rubric of “disidentification.” This category allows her to interrogate both formal features of this writing, as well its cultural designs. Karolina Krasuska reads the texts by Nadia Kalman, David Bezmozgis, Anya Ulinich, and Lara Vapnyar using gender and queer theory to address the function of queer presences in this literature. She argues that they cannot be a direct measure for cultural inclusivity that this body of work is sometimes idealistically seen as promoting in comparison to other contemporary Jewish American literary texts. Finally, Sandra Chiritescu reads Amy Kurzweil’s Flying Couch and Julia Alekseyeva’s Soviet Daughter as accounts of trans-generational and gendered witnessing. She argues that these third-generation graphic Holocaust narratives portray a mode of address marked by amenable listening conditions which allow for ample space to narrate the listener’s present parallel to the survivors’ testimony, thus creating one coherent narrative out of two intertwined biographies whose borders are permeated by trauma, testimony and witnessing.

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