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Jewish Women and Literary Modernity

Mon, December 18, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Howard University Room

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


This roundtable examines the vexed status of women’s writing in Jewish literary history and Jewish Studies. Although Jewish women writers have been written about and discussed by feminist scholars, narratives of Jewish literary history and Jewish modernity continue to exclude women’s writing. This is not because women weren’t writing, but rather because they have been erased or marginalized by the literary historical record. Our roundtable asks: Why have women writers been excluded and marginalized in accounts of literary modernity? Why are women prose writers more vulnerable to being marginalized? What strategies and methodologies can help overcome the exclusion of women? How does our work on women challenge literary norms and revise literary histories? We’ll discuss these questions in comparative contexts, looking at Hebrew, Yiddish, and German literature. Wendy Zierler will discuss her work on Hebrew women writers, including the project of collecting, editing and translating Hava Shapiro’s corpus. She’ll discuss her approach to Shapiro, not as a peripheral writer, but as one who influenced other male writers. Orian Zakai will discuss her work on early Zionist women’s writing, situating these women in the larger Zionist project. Lisa Silverman will address Austrian Jewish women’s writing to show how their work shaped culture in Vienna. She’ll address how despite the popularity of their works at the time, their reputations remain overshadowed by their more famous male contemporaries. Elizabeth Loentz will discuss the writings of German-Jewish women, particularly from the decades before the Shoah, who remain underrepresented in literary historical accounts. She argues that critical attention to their work can contribute to a fuller and more accurate picture of the German and German-Jewish literary landscapes. Anita Norich will ask why Yiddish women writers in America are known only for their poetry, and how the inclusion of their prose into the modernist canon changes our understanding of Yiddish modernism, focusing on Esther Singer Kreitman and Kadia Molodowsky. Allison Schachter will moderate the discussion, bringing her expertise on Hebrew and Yiddish women’s prose fiction, including writers such as Fradel Shtok.

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