American Talmud: The Cultural Work of Jewish American by Ezra Cappell

By Ezra Cappell

Appears on the position of Jewish American fiction within the higher context of yankee culture.

In American Talmud, Ezra Cappell redefines the style of Jewish American fiction and areas it squarely in the better context of yank literature. Cappell departs from the traditional strategy of defining Jewish American authors exclusively when it comes to their ethnic origins and sociological constructs, and as an alternative contextualizes their fiction in the theological historical past of Jewish tradition. through intentionally emphasizing historic and ethnographic hyperlinks to religions, spiritual texts, and traditions, Cappell demonstrates that twentieth-century and modern Jewish American fiction writers were codifying a brand new Talmud, an American Talmud, and argues that the literary creation of Jews in the USA can be noticeable as yet one more degree of rabbinic remark at the scriptural inheritance of the Jewish humans.

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Additional resources for American Talmud: The Cultural Work of Jewish American Fiction

Example text

Midway through his memoir Survival in Auschwitz, Levi is assigned a new bunkmate. On the march to work they exchange a few words: He told me his story, and today I have forgotten it, but it was certainly a sorrowful, cruel and moving story; because so are all our stories, hundreds of thousands of stories, all different and all full of tragic, disturbing necessity. We tell them to each other in the evening, and they take place in Norway, Italy, Algeria, the Ukraine, and are simple and incomprehensible like the stories in the Bible.

Henry Roth’s First Novel 29 HENRY ROTH’S TIKKUN: IN SEARCH OF LOST MERCY Momentarily moving away from the current renaissance of Jewish American fiction, I’d like to go back a bit in time to the dark years of the depression when Henry Roth was completing his first novel. 1 Yet I would suggest that Roth’s first novel is less a Jewish novel than an anti-Jewish novel. While recent Jewish American fiction, through a reacquaintance with Jewish texts, has been marked by an embracing of traditional Jewish law and culture, I believe Roth’s first novel stands as a pillar of opposition to that continuity; it is precisely these Jewish texts that are parodied and mocked throughout Call It Sleep.

Malamud once said: “The suffering of the Jews is a distinct thing for me. I for one believe that not enough has been made of the tragedy of the destruction of six million Jews. Somebody has to cry—even if it’s a writer, twenty years later” (Rothstein 26). In interviews Malamud often asserted that the advent of World War II and the Holocaust first convinced him to become a writer. If this quote helps answer the question of Malamud’s thematic interest in World War II—if not as text, then certainly as subtext—for much of his fiction, it also raises another equally troubling problem: Just what sort of Jewish identity has he become aware of, and how will he represent that newfound Jewish identification in his fiction?

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