A House of Words: Jewish Writing, Identity, and Memory

Synopsis

Focusing on the way Jewish history -- particularly the Holocaust -- and tradition inform postwar Canadian and American Jewish literature, A House of Words offers innovative readings of the works of such influential writers as Saul Bellow, Leonard Cohen, Eli Mandel, Mordecai Richler, Chava Rosenfarb, Philip Roth, and Nathanael West. Norman Ravvin highlights the concerns that these disparate writers share as Jewish writers as well as places their work in the context of the broader traditions of multiculturalism, post-colonial writing, and critical theory.

Arguing that Jewish North American writing is too commonly discussed as part of the mainstream, neglecting the Jewish aspects of the works, Ravvin places the writing of Bellow, Richler, Cohen, West, Mandel, Roth, and Rosenfarb within the Jewish context that the works demand. Ravvin depicts a Jewish cultural landscape within which postwar writers contend with community and identity, continuity and loss, and highlights the way this particular landscape is entangled with broader literary and cultural traditions. He considers Bellow and West alongside apocalyptic narratives, discusses Cohen in relation to the counterculture, examines Mandel's postmodern view of history, and looks at autobiography and ethics in Roth and Rosenfarb.

At once scholarly and poetic, A House of Words will appeal to the general reader of Canadian, American, and Jewish literature and history, as well as to specialists in these fields.