Session Submission Summary

Direct link:

Activism, Allyship, Appropriation, Erasure: Representing Others in North American Jewish Literature

Sun, December 18, 2:30 to 4:00pm, Sheraton Boston Clarendon 3rd Floor

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel answers the Division in Modern Literature and Culture’s call for papers on issues pertaining to the relationship between literature and minority experiences. The three papers examine how North American Jewish writers have used, represented, and misrepresented the experiences of other marginalized groups in their writing. The panelists will consider the relationality between Jewish writers and others on the margins in a range of literary works, including fiction, non-fiction, and plays. While this relationality has contributed to Jewish activism (in particular, on behalf of antiracist and LGBTQ movements), literary production has also provided spaces in which Jewish writers enact their own colonial projects or power plays, which may not have been possible in reality. As these papers demonstrate, despite an historic outsider perspective as ethno-religious minorities, in both Europe and North America, Jewish writers’ attempts to represent other Others have often fallen short, at times further contributing to the marginalization of subjugated communities, Indigenous people, and people of color. In her paper, Lori Harrison-Kahan examines how Annie Nathan Meyer’s antiracist writings were attentive to differences between Black and Jewish American experiences of white supremacist violence in the early twentieth century, while also interrogating the blind spots in Meyer’s literary treatment of African Americans in the Jim Crow South. Rachel Gordan’s paper looks at how Laura Z. Hobson drew on her understanding of Jews and antisemitism to write about gays and homophobia in the 1970s, and how writing about young gay men allowed her to make claims about Jewishness in her fiction. Vardit Lightsone’s papers examines the personal narratives of Eastern European Jewish migrants to Canada, to show how Jewish migrants adapted made use of colonial ideas about Indigenous people in ways which served their own goals as Jewish settlers.

Sub Unit


Individual Presentations