Course: Contemporary Jewish Writers

HC 434H/421H

Professor: Monique R. Balbuena

Graduation Requirement: This class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Arts & Letters Colloquium and an IC (International Cultures) Multicultural class. If the student has already taken an Arts & Letters Colloquium, this class will fulfill both of the following requirements: an Elective Colloquium and an IC Multicultural class.

This course offers a sample of the diversity of Jewish experience and the variety of Jewish cultural production. We will read the fiction of contemporary Jewish writers writing in French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, and issued from France and the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia), Latin America (both Luso-Brazilian and Spanish-American) and Italy. Reading the works in English translation, we will discuss different responses offered by Jewish authors to their perceived need of entry into the modern world, and their complex negotiations of belonging with the different surrounding cultures. We will explore the role of memory—both collective and individual— and come to grips with how a Jewish memory affects the discourse of the minority writer. We will observe how identity—personal, cultural, historical—is constructed and thematized in these works. We will be exposed to a range of immigrant and post-immigrant experiences and to the psychological, social and literary effects of exile. The course will also introduce students to a number of Jewish women writers, prompting specific questions about gender and minority writing. In addition to the bulk of prose works, we will also read a selection of poems in other languages (German, Yiddish, Ladino, Hebrew), including poets such as Paul Celan, Juan Gelman, Jacob Glatstein, Yehuda Amichai, Dan Pagis, Elsa Lasker-Schüler, Margalit Matitiahu, and Yona Wallach. In these texts we encounter different literary responses to the Holocaust. Assignments include an oral presentation, a choice of a take-home exam or an oral exam, and a collaborative paper.