ENG 605: Jewish-American Literature
Jews have been part of American history since the mid-seventeenth century. Yet only with the massive emigration from Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century, when between 1880 and 1920 the Jewish population in the United States grew from 250,000 to nearly four million, did Jewish writers emerge as a significant force within our literary history. Beginning with Emma Lazarus's often-quoted 1883 verses for the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, the huddled masses yearning to breath free" we will trace the origins and development of Jewish American literature, in all of its genres, over the last 130 years. Besides reading a host of fascinating writers from Abraham Cahan and Anzia Yezierska to Philip Roth and Allegra Goodman, from Emma Lazarus to Allen Ginsberg, from Clifford Odets to David Mamet we will consider some of the larger cultural issues which they engaged: immigration, assimilation, urbanization, devastation, suburbanization, and secularization.