Page 213 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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Thus, the era of the Jewish Renaissance opens with a bang and
closes with a whine.
SUBJECT OF LITERARY CRITICISM
If American Jewish fiction appears to have peaked in 1969,
scholarly criticism about American Jewish fiction was just be­
ginning. Until 1960 there was only one full-length book on the
subject, Joseph Mersand’s
Tradition in American Literature: A
Study ofJewish Characters and Authors.
In the sixties two new books
appeared: Irving Malin’s
Jews and Americans
and Sol Liptzin’s
The Jew in American Literature.
Then, in 1971 Allen Guttman,
a former sixties radical now turned Amherst academic, pub­
lished his comprehensive
The Jewish Writer in America: Assimila­
tion and the Crisis of Identity.
And in 1978, Irving Howe, that
former thirties Marxist-socialist, later turned Brandeis academ­
ic, produced his acclaimed
The World of our Fathers
which con­
tained a long essay on American Jewish literature. Though sep­
arated by a generation, what Guttman and Howe shared was
their tones of personal self-appreciation and eulogy for the
death of American Jewish literature. Here I offer a short quo­
tation from the conclusions of both works on the subject. First,
Guttman:
What are the
literary
consequences o f the virtual conclusion
o f the process o f Americanization? . . . In 1964 I rashly conjec­
tured that the renaissance o f Jewish writers had very nearly run
its course . . . Paradoxically, the survival in America o f a signif­
icant and identifiably Jewish literature depends upon the unlikely
conversion to Judaism o f a stiff-necked, intractable, irreverent,
attractive generation that no longer chooses to be chosen.
The following is a quotation from Howe’s chapter on American
Jewish writers:
. . .once that Yiddish world began to crumble, once it no longer
offered its silent buttress to the imagination, these writers had
sooner or later to enter a state o f crisis . . . . For the American
Jewish writers there remained o f course America, but as a subject
for fiction, America, as many o f them discovered, is very large,
very slippery, very abstract, very recalcitrant. Can it really be
said that any o f these writers have thus far grasped a portion
KESSNER AND SOF IA / SELECTED BIBL IOGRAPHY OF LITERARY CR IT IC ISM
205