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20th Century Jewish Literature Revisited: Graduate Student Works-in-Progress

Sun, December 16, 10:00 to 11:30am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 1 Ballroom
Mon, December 17, 8:30 to 10:00am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Waterfront 1 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Seminar


Using a unique discursive format, this session brings together graduate students and professors of contemporary Jewish literary studies to present a vibrant cross section of emergent narratives. Each graduate student presenter will draw on their dissertation to deliver a 10- to 15-minute paper that introduces a new branch of literary theory—post/colonial studies, whiteness studies, memory studies, animal studies, and transhistorical comparison—to a transnational array of literature and film. In the remaining time, our panel of professors — Maeera Shreiber (University of Utah), Ben Schreier (Penn State), and Julian Levinson (University of Michigan) — will discuss and debate the directions, intersections, innovations, and challenges of the projects.

Ben Ratskoff begins with his paper, “Of white ethnographers, Holocaust survivors, and colonized Africans: CHRONIQUE D’UN ÉTÉ’s Imperial Gaze,” which interrogates how Jean Rouch's CHRONIQUE D’UN ÉTÉ transposes anthropological methods of imperial observation from periphery to metropole, ultimately fixing the Jewish Holocaust survivor under an objectifying gaze, positioning her as the “native informant.” Naomi Taub’s paper, “Lesser the Settler: Post/colonial Jewish Whiteness in Malamud's THE TENANTS,” rereads Malamud’s classic novel as a post/colonial text in which protagonist Harry Lesser adapts colonial formations to reify his whiteness, in direct contrast to the increasingly anti-colonial tenor of African American identity politics of the period. Lizy Mostowki’s paper, “The Problem of Being a Polish-Jew: The Post-Holocaust Poland of Julian Tuwim and Avrom Sutzkever,” reconsiders Tuwim's “My Żydzi Polscy” and Sutzkever's “Tsu Poylin,” reading both as Mourner's Kaddishes to reveal the oft-obscured relationship between the two authors. In “The Jewishness of Adrienne Rich’s Animal Poetics," Darla Himeles considers how Adrienne Rich's animal imagery taps into Jewish prophetic modes, connects to the Holocaust's centrality in her Jewish self-definition, and signals a struggle toward TESHUVAH on behalf of her animal poetics. Finally, Roy Holler presents on African-American and Israeli literatures in “‘Valley of Shaveh’ and the Boundaries of Comparison: On Working with Modern Hebrew and African American Literatures,” showing that positioning the Holocaust alongside the harsh and violent reality of the African-American experience ignites an immediate emotional response that must be considered as part of the scholarship.

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