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Authenticity, Complaint, and the 'Russianness' of American Jewish Literature

Gabriella Safran (Stanford University)
Safran event flyer
Monday, November 2, 2015 - 3:30pm
Simpson Center for the Humanities, CMU 120

It is often alleged that the American Jewish writers who became prominent in the 1960s, such as Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, and Philip Roth, can be seen as continuing an East European literary tradition, that they are linked to Russian writers Nikolai Gogol and Fedor Dostoevsky and Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem. These American Jewish writers are also seen as writing in an "authentic" way, complaining about what they see as wrong and revealing their own true emotions, or those of their characters, at the risk of seeming uncouth. This talk situates the Russian-seeming emotionality of the American Jewish voice in the history of Cold War-era listening.

Prof. Gabriella Safran, Eva Chernov Lokey Chair of Jewish Studies, has written on Russian, Polish, Yiddish, and French literatures and cultures.  Her most recent book,Wandering Soul:  The Dybbuk’s Creator, S. An-sky (Harvard, 2010), is a biography of an early-twentieth-century Russian-Yiddish writer who was also an ethnographer, a revolutionary, and a wartime relief worker.

Safran teaches and writes on Russian literature, Yiddish literature, folklore, and folkloristics.  She is now working on two monograph projects: one on the collection and curating of the Russian peasant voice, by writers, lexicographers, ethnographers, and musicologists, from the 1830s to the 1910s, and the other on the popularization of notions of Jewish voice, by writers, speakers, and performers, in the Russian space and in the United States, from the 1870s through the 1920s.

Organized by: Slavic Languages and Literatures

Co-sponsored by: Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, the Department of Comparative Literature, Cinema & Media, and the Department of English


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