Connections and Collisions: Identities in Contemporary Jewish-American Women's Writing

Connections and Collisions: Identities in Contemporary Jewish-American Women's Writing

Connections and Collisions: Identities in Contemporary Jewish-American Women's Writing

Connections and Collisions: Identities in Contemporary Jewish-American Women's Writing

Synopsis

"This anthology of scholarship on Jewish women writers is the first to focus on what it is to be a woman and a Jew and to explore how the two identities variously support and oppose each other. The collection is part of a growing scholarship that reflects the enormous output of writing by Jewish women since the second wave of the women's movement in the 1970s." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Lois E. Rubin

This anthology of scholarship on jewish women writers is the first to focus on what it is to be a woman and a Jew and to explore how the two identities interact—at times supporting each other and at times acting in opposition. Such study has been made possible by the wealth of representations of Jewish women in fiction stimulated by the confluence of second wave feminism of the 1970s and the ethnic identity movements of the 1960’s (Sollors 1980, 649). the women’s movement in the late 60s and 70s stimulated a quantity of writing by American women about women—resulting in what has been described as a “renaissance” (Showalter 1991, xii). Meanwhile, spurred on by ethnic identity movements, ethnic women asserted their difference from mainstream women and their right to their own distinct literature and scholarship. An outgrowth of both movements was Jewish women’s literature, described as representing “the most significant literary achievements” in Jewish American writing in the past few decades (Halio 1997, 9).

The underlying premise of this collection is the belief that femaleness and Jewishness are socially constructed categories (Peskowitz 1997, 25). If Jewishness is innately a gendered category, then female Jewish experience is different from that of males and should be studied for its own qualities and dimensions (Prell 1997, 80). the literature discussed in the essays also provides insight into the actual process of constructing a Jewish female identity. For example, in essays in Part ii of the collection, customary practices and roles for Jewish women are revealed as the characters push against these boundaries, trying to assert alternative goals and choices, and sometimes being suppressed by those who hold traditional worldviews and assert male dominance. Conversely, in literature described by other essays (Part iii of the collection), female characters reconstruct gender roles as they appropriate . . .

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