Thursday, September 18, 2014

The End of American Jewish Literature, Again

What role does America play in Jewish life, and by extension what kind of Jewish literature can be created here?

By David Bezmozgis

End of American Jewish LiteratureThe title of this talk is “The End of American Jewish Literature, Again.” It alludes to an oft-cited and, for some, provocative essay written by the late American Jewish scholar and critic Irving Howe. The essay was in fact his introduction to an anthology he edited, Jewish-American Stories, published in 1977. The anthology assembled stories by many of the writers responsible for what is considered to be the golden age of American Jewish writing: Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Grace Paley, Bernard Malamud, Henry Roth, Stanley Elkin, and others. Usually when the essay is invoked it is for the lines that appear near its conclusion. I’ll quote them for you in full:

There remains the question, worth asking if impossible to answer with certainty: What is the likely future of American Jewish writing? Has it already passed its peak of achievement and influence? Can we expect a new generation of writers to appear who will contribute to American literature a distinctive sensibility and style derived from the Jewish experience in this country?

Howe continues:

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