Dictionary of World Literature: Criticism, Forms, Technique

By Joseph T. Shipley | Go to book overview

Y

yellow-back.See Dime novel Yellow journalism, press. See Journalism.

YIDDISH CRITICISM. The main countries of Jewish settlement are Russia, Poland, the Baltic countries, Rumania, the United States, Argentina. As citizens of many lands, Yiddish writers bring into their literature not only the breath of the varied milieus, but very often the turmoil of different social and artistic problems. To overcome such territorial dispersion and centrifugence, an ideology to preserve the cultural uniqueness of Yiddish literature awoke with especial vigor. On the other hand, the inevitable rivalry with the literatures of the countries in which the Jews live evoked a natural desire to match the best contemporary achievements.

These two tendencies, in the last third of the 19th c., transformed the folk creations and the more homely writings of ca. 600 years' duration into a modern literature. The need for critical yardsticks was felt, to stimulate the writer and help the reader orient himself in the growing number of individual works and in the new concept of literary unity.

Apart from occasional articles by writers in other fields ( I. L. Peretz; Sholem Aleikhem), from reviews and critical studies of the Hebrew-Yiddish journalists ( Alexander Tsederbaum, J. Ch. Ravnitsky, in Europe; Ab. Cahan, B. Gorin, in the U. S.), the history of Yiddish literary criticism begins with Dr. Isidore Eliashev ( Lithuania, 1873-1924; pseud. Bal-Makhshoves1). His approach was based on Taine's theory of milieu, esp. the national- historical psyche in which the artist is rooted. His critical studies of the classics of Yiddish literature give broad and often profound descriptions of the national-religious and economic-social background that influenced the writer's personality. He was the first critic with an awareness of Yiddish literature as a national entity.

Before the first World War and esp. in the period between the two wars, the rise and modernization of periodicals and of the daily press, which devoted a great deal of space to belles-lettres, and the growth of book production, steadily increased the demand for literary criticism, in all the important Yiddish centers. This was answered partly by the poets and belleslettrists, who in their impressionistic manner often achieved valuable critical appraisal and analysis. The professional critics in the main were grouped around the newspapers. [ Poland and Lithuania: Nakhman Maisil, in whose works ideological, biographical and interpretative elements dominate; J. Rappaport, who stresses the pattern; J. I. Trunk, with philosophical reflections stimulated by Sholem Aleikhem's great work; Jacob Gottlieb, the youngest. Argentina: Jacob Botoshansky, loving connoisseur of books, intimate portraitist of writers. U. S.: the sober social analyst, Hillel Rogoff; the jovial and strapping Joel Entin; Khaim Lieberman, inclined to extravagance both in enthusiasm and in satire; the impressionistic, poeticizing Mordecai Jaffe; the prolific, humorously inclined A. Almi; the sensitive and subtle A. Tabatchnick; the temperamental and satiric drama reviewer, Dr. A. Mukdoini (b. 1878); Moissaye Olgin ( 1878- 1939), who after 1924 applied the dogmatic Marxist standard; not least, the previously mentioned pioneer of Yiddish criticism and veteran of Yiddish journalism, Ab. Cahan (b. 1860), who fought with polemical ardor for a straightforward realism. Soviet Union: both older and younger critics ( M. Litvakov, J. Dobrushin, A. Nusinov, J. Bronshtein, Nokhum Oislender2), who prescribed the ideological "Octoberization" of Yiddish literature, which meant putting it at the service of the Communist party-struggle. Not only were contemporary writers thus critically judged, but the social-political "fitness" of the classics underwent revaluation. While the older critics, in the pre-Soviet period, still applied artistic and national- ideological criteria, Oislender was the spokesman for a broadly interpreted realism that was to represent the artistic- ideological elevation of folk-creation and to become the standard for Yiddish literature.]

In the years preceding the first World War, the chief figure in Yiddish criticism broke the barriers between the Jewish settlements in different lands. This was Samuel Charney (White Russia, b. 1883),

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Dictionary of World Literature: Criticism, Forms, Technique
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • ADVISERS and CONTRIBUTORS vii
  • SUGGESTIVE LIST OF ASSOCIATED TOPICS xi
  • Abbreviations xiv
  • A 1
  • B 63
  • C 82
  • D 145
  • E 182
  • F 229
  • G 277
  • H 296
  • I 310
  • J 339
  • K 346
  • L 347
  • M 365
  • N 394
  • Q 468
  • S 500
  • T 572
  • U 599
  • W 619
  • Y 631
  • Z 633
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