|Cheryl Alexander Malcolm|
Unshtetling Narratives.Depictions of Jewish Identities in British and American Literature and Film
Foreword by Jules Chametzky
January 2006. 214 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-21-3; ISBN-10 3-901993-21-5 (= SACS 3)
"The title of this wonderful collection of essays is noteworthy: The 'unshtetling' refers to the need to move awayfrom any sentimental view of an idealized, uncomplex, old world or 'shtetl' existence, but also to an 'unsettling' ofother shibboleths concerning Jewish (and other) identities. Cheryl Malcolm unsettles much received and conventionalwisdom about Jewish narratives and identities by careful close readings of familiar and unfamiliar texts, aided byjudicious use of post-modern scholarship, but most dramatically in several essays by juxtaposing writers and storiesin an unlikely and highly illuminating fashion."
Jules Chametzky, "Foreword"
Table of Contents:
Foreword by Jules Chametzky
I. Introduction: Just Follow Your Nose
1. Peninsular Thoughts
2. Fixed States and Forged Identities
II. Hyphens and Chutzpah
1. Jewish Faith and American Identity
2 Sex, Drugs, and Redemption: Bruce Jay Friedman's "When You're Excused, You're Excused" and "Lady"
III. Journeys of Assimilation
1. The Empty Bride: Cynthia Ozick's "Envy; or, Yiddish in America"
2. Having a Nice Time Here: Harold Pinter's Family Voices
3. All in the Same Boat: Zina Rohan's The Sandbeetle
IV. A Surrogate Black and a Shiksa
1. Othering the Other in Abraham Cahan's Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto
2. Unshtetling Narratives: The Yiddish American Film The Cantor's Son
V. Poets and Other Imposters
1. Marrying In and Moving Up: Anita Brookner's Providence and Cynthia Ozick's "Virility"
2. Missing Mothers and Foreskins: Langston Hughes's "Passing" and Bernard Malamud's "The Lady of the Lake"
VI. Remembrance and Survival
1. Unholy Remnants: Chariots of Fire and X-Men
2. A Good Pole in Yavneh: Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl
3. The Lucky Ones? Child Evacuees in Anita Brookner's Latecomers
VII. Laughing with Caliban
1. Calling a Corpse a Corpse: Singer and the Subversion of Nazi Rhetoric
2. The Show's Not Over Until the Schlemiel Sings: David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly
VIII. Afterword: Hands on the Wheel
"Cheryl Malcolm's Unshtetling Narratives is unsettling since it looks at Jewish identity andassimilation from the perspectives of race and class and questions the ease at which the ethnic Otherwas "fully accepted" on both sides of the Atlantic, by societies priding themselves on being democraticand egalitarian. Despite the great strides made by Jews in these societies, her investigations of thesocial and psychological dilemmas experienced by Jewish characters on both the page and the screen pointto an acceptance of Ozick's belief that full assimilation is not only impossible but not even desirable.Recently, similar warnings have more potently been given by Philip Roth in American Pastoral andThe Plot Against America. While Malcolm states that her subject is limited almost entirely topost-immigrant writing, the questions raised by those wroters are the foundation for contemporary Jewishwriting, especially in the US, where writers like Allegra Goodman, Dara Horn and Thane Rosenbaum no longerposit the issue of what is and how we become American, but "are re-identifying the Jew with ethnicity,religion, the Holocaust and Israel" (23). I would greatly look forward to another volume on thispost-assimilationist generation."
"In Unshtetling Narratives, Cheryl Alexander Malcolm presents an original combination ofliterary and cinematic works. Furthermore, she offers very interesting interpretations, founded on skillfuland thorough close reading and written in a very specific and poetic style. Cheryl Malcolm always presentsher analyses against an informed and relevant theoretical and historical background. She uses a lot ofsecondary sources in a critical and enlightening way: Sander Gilman, Emil Fackenheim, Irving Howe, Danieland Jonathan Boyarin, and many others. A discourse on identity and identity formation is the central themein this work and only on a few negligible occasions, the coherence is somewhat lost. Cheryl Malcolm haswritten a rich and inspired (and inspiring) analytical work, and a great contribution to Jewish studiesin general and, more specifically, to the comparative study between both British and American Jewishliterature and between Jewish literature and film."
"It must be stressed that the author's significant attention devoted to Anita Brookner (and some lesserknown figures) produces unusually insightful, consistently engaging readings. For the most part, whereverMalcolm turns her restless and imaginative attention, readers will find themselves rewarded with a distinctiveand provocative critical voice. There are numerous pleasures here and Malcolm's language is usually lively,spare, and illuminating. In her quest "to confront some of [the] unsettling and unshtetling absences and presences"of hypthenated Jewish cultural products in both Britain and the United States, Malcolm boldly succeeds."
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