This fall, the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan will welcome three guest lecturers for a series of events centered around Yiddish. Allison Schachter, Vivi Lachs and Eddy Portnoy will be giving separate lectures on topics including Yiddish poetry, music and underground culture. All the lectures will take place in Room 2022 of the 202 S. Thayer St. building.
Above: Antologye: Finf Hundert Yor Idishe Poeziye, edited by Morris Bassin (New York: Literarisher Farlag, 1917); Jewish Museum, London; The Murdered Jewess, Sarah Alexander. The Life, Trial, and Conviction of Rubenstein, the Polish Jew (Barclay Publishing Company, Philadelphia, 1876).
Allison Schachter of Vanderbilt University will give a lecture titled, “Madame Bovary in the Jewish Provinces: Fradel Shtok’s Modernist Yiddish Prose” at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18. Schachter will discuss Fradel Shtok, a celebrated poet credited with writing the first sonnet in Yiddish. The talk will focus on Shtok’s life after she published a collection of her lesser-known prose writings in 1919, which were dismissed by critics at the time as too similar to Gustave Flaubert, a French novelist and leader in literary realism, and too dissimilar compared to prominent Yiddish author and playwright Sholem Aleichem. The common knowledge at the time was that Shtok, traumatized by the negative reviews, rejected Yiddish and died in an asylum. Schachter’s lecture will explain what really happened to Shtok after these reviews and offer a revised account of Yiddish modernism, one that acknowledges the centrality of women to the modern Jewish revolution.
On Tuesday, Oct. 30, at 4 p.m., Vivi Lachs of Birkbeck, University of London will examine Yiddish kupletn (rhyming couplets) written by Jewish immigrant songwriters and poets in pre-World War I London. During this period, Yiddish-speaking immigrants were anglicizing to local British culture and, at the same time, maintaining some aspects of the transnational Yiddish-speaker world. The talk, “Whitechapel Noise: Politics, sex and religion in Yiddish rhyme on the streets of London’s East End 1884-1914,” is illustrated with song and explains how these protest hymns, music-hall songs and satirical verses tell stories that expand and nuance our knowledge of immigrant history.
Eddy Portnoy’s talk, titled “The Bizarre Tales of Yiddishland: What the Yiddish Press Reveals about the Jews,” will wrap up the series at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Portnoy, of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, will discuss the seamy underbelly of pre-World War II New York and Warsaw, the two major centers of Yiddish culture in the late- 19th and early-20th centuries. With true stories of Jewish drunks, thieves, murderers, wrestlers, psychics and beauty queens, all plucked from the pages of the Yiddish dailies, Portnoy will present the Jews whose follies and foibles were fodder for urban gossip before winding up at the bottom of bird cages or as wrapping for dead fish.
More information about these events, as well as six others the Frankel Center will be hosting in Ann Arbor this fall, can be found at lsa.umich.edu/judaic.