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Gender and Genre Shifts in American Jewish Culture

Tue, December 17, 10:15 to 11:45am, Hilton Bayfront San Diego, Aqua 305

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


In the current cultural milieu of the US, shifting genders of Jewish narratives are highly visible. Recent television series like Transparent, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Russian Doll, starring Jewish women and femme characters, challenge the male-centric narratives established by mid-century "great American Jewish novels" a la Saul Bellow, Philip Roth and Bernard Malamud. This panel builds on scholarly discourse around gender, genre and language by Judith Butler, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Saidiya Hartman and others, to explore how Jewish women’s voices broaden and redefine gendered readings and establish lineages for the current efflorescence of female-centered Jewish narratives. Papers will focus on cultural production across a range of literary and artistic forms that engage with. This panel considers the questions: How is Jewish gender reflected and/or constituted differently across different genres? What is at stake in Jewish representations of gender? What happens when genres traditionally associated with one gender are "appropriated" by those of a different gender?

Jeremiah Lockwood explores the work of experimental composer and cantorial revivalist Judith Berkson, putting Berkson’s work in dialogue with the khazentes (women cantors) of the early 20th century. Danny Luzon employs Bakhtinian theories of carnivalesque speech to explore how the protagonists of “Broad City” and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” subvert gender through their parodic use of Jewish-ly coded language. Shoshana Olidort reveals how Gertrude Stein and Adrienne Rich resist patriarchal poetry, opening up the borders of a genre typically coded male, protestant and straight. Anna Elena Torres considers the role of Jewish women’s social practices in shaping philosophical discourses of mutual aid in the Yiddish anarchist movement. Taken collectively, these four papers offer critical interventions that deepen our reading of Jewish genres by centering women’s cultural productivity.

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