Frankel Center Lecture: Walter Cohen

“Jewishness and Modernist Fiction”

Long internal to Europe, Jews are nevertheless for centuries either relegated to the past or seen as a marginal group, as outsiders, as alien invaders of Christian Europe. This begins to change in the Enlightenment. But only in the modernist period, and then only in prose fiction, do Jews and Jewishness come to occupy a central position—a position difficult to perceive in retrospect owing to the tendency to view the early twentieth century through the retrospective lens of the Nazi years and to the practice of defining Jewishness in unduly restrictive terms. Modernist fiction responds to the collapse of shared values with an attenuation of plot yoked to a structurally autobiographical recreation of ordinary social life, including the lives of people very different from the author (Proust, Kafka, Joyce). This moment proves congenial to the Jewish writer, less exclusively attached to the nation than are many contemporary authors. Jewish modernist fiction thus marks the transition from the literature of Europe and the West to the category of world literature
Room 2022, 202 S. Thayer, Ann Arbor 48104


      02.14.2017 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM

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