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Intergenerational Jewish Dialogues in Literature

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Organizer: Sharon Zelnick

Co-Organizer: Stephen Ross

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It is a commonplace that modernist and contemporary Jewish authors, poets, and philosophers engage with their Jewish predecessors. This seminar approaches this broad topic, and attempts to sharpen it, by questioning the specific problem of intergenerational Jewish “dialogue.” Our goal will be to consider the relays between aesthetics and memory, between the formal and thematic decisions of modernist and contemporary Jewish writers and the lines of communication that open up between them—or are foreclosed—across time and space. Our aim is to arrive at a richer and more nuanced understanding of the dialogism, broadly construed, of modern and contemporary Jewish writing and thought.
         By attending to the various ways modernist and contemporary Jewish writers echo, revise, and respond to each other and their shared Jewish predecessors, this seminar provides a space to examine Jewish memory and literature through the broad framework of “dialogue.” Taking up this issue via comparatist, multilingual, and multigenre methodologies will allow us to trace the full dimensions of modern and contemporary Jewish cultural production while avoiding the pitfalls of linguistic, cultural, or disciplinary parochialism. Overall, this seminar will prompt us to reflect on questions relating to Jewish literature and intergenerational memory that have either been neglected or that demand further analysis from modernist and contemporary perspectives.  

The seminar’s key questions include: 

How do Jewish authors engage with each other transnationally?
How do Jewish American authors echo Jewish-German intellectuals?
How does Jewish literature respond to the trauma of the Holocaust across generations?
What is the relation between modernist and contemporary Jewish poetry?
What is the role of language in intergenerational Jewish dialogues?
How do religion and spirituality inflect intergenerational Jewish dialogues?

Suggested topics include (but are not restricted to):

Relays between modernist Jewish writing and contemporary literature
Jewish literature and intergenerational trauma
Migrating Jewish memories across time and space
Jewish tropes across generations
Intertexts in Jewish poetry
Literature as a medium for representing Jewish identity
Interpretation, translation, and transition in Jewish Literature

This seminar welcomes scholars working in all languages, geographical areas, and theoretical frameworks, and encourages proposals that take an interdisciplinary and/or cross-disciplinary approach.

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