Session Submission Summary

Direct link:

Early Modern Women Writers and Yiddish Literary History

Sun, December 18, 10:00 to 11:30am, Sheraton Boston Clarendon 3rd Floor

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


How has the work of early modern women writers been ‘canonized’ or incorporated into Yiddish literary history? Considering a range of texts–including tkhines and the work of Glikl bas Judah Leib, Rivka bas Meir Tiktiner, and Bella Perlhefter–we will discuss their circulation and reception. In doing so, we will build upon recent scholarship that interrogates entrenched patriarchal accounts of the history of Yiddish literature and foregrounds women’s writing (e.g., Klepfisz, Hellerstein, Norich, Schachter, Lisek, Jones, Weiman-Kelman, Kirzane, et al.). Much of this scholarship has, however, concentrated on literary production in the twentieth century. In turn, we will discuss how to bring the longer history of women’s writing in Yiddish into conversation with the critical and historiographical innovations of recent years.

–How has the history of early modern women’s writing in Yiddish been told? How has this writing been variously canonized, sidelined, and effaced? How might we continue to recover and contextualize this writing today?
–How did scholars, critics, writers, and readers, over time, understand the significance of genres like tkhines or the work of writers like Glikl? How did the writing of early modern women shape (or not shape) later developments in Yiddish literature and culture?
–How did the pioneering scholarship of Chava Turniansky, Chava Weissler, and Natalie Zemon Davis transform our understanding of women’s contributions to early modern culture? How might their work be brought into conversation with recent scholarship about Yiddish women writers in the twentieth century?

Sonia Gollance will offer perspectives grounded in her research on Yiddish women writers, popular culture, and performance. Rachel Greenblatt, an historian of the early modern period, will reflect on her experience in seeking out the voices of early modern women in the context of recent scholarship. Matthew Johnson will build on his work on the translation and often overlooked reception histories of early modern texts. Dalia Wolfson will speak about tkhines and their afterlives in early 20th century literature. Jordan Katz, an historian of Jewish cultural history with a focus on women and gender in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, will moderate and contribute to our conversation.

Sub Unit