Trim: 6 x 9
978-1-4985-6389-5 • Hardback • June 2018 • $128.00 • (£98.00)
978-1-4985-6390-1 • eBook • June 2018 • $121.50 • (£94.00)
Dana Mihăilescu is associate professor of English/American studies at the University of Bucharest, Romania.
Part I: Power Fields, Struggles for Recognition, and the Birth of Jewish American Contingent Identity
1. Preliminary Considerations
2. Eastern European Traditions in Early Twentieth Century Jewish American Narratives
3. American Traditions between Temptations and Traps: Towards a Contingent Identity
Part II: Jewishness, Responsibility, and Vulnerability in Early Twentieth Century America: Writing an Ethics out of Contingency
4. Stances of Ethical Agency out of Contingency
5. Human Socialities between Struggles for Recognition and Ethical Responsibility
Jewish American literature may be considered the first ethnic literature to have achieved great influence in the United States, in which hyphenated and multiple identities proliferate. Dana Mihăilescu’s Eastern European Jewish American Narratives, 1890–1930 offers a timely new critical contribution by studying the plural and often shifting character of Jewish identity among immigrants in a new land, deepening our understanding of the Jewish historical background of Jewish-American literature. Mihăilescu studies not only narratives of immigrant writers of Orthodox background from the Russian Pale, as has been the tendency in earlier studies, but also provides a comparative study of other less well-known Romanian immigrant writers, coming from a more progressive milieu. She studies how all these authors forged differing and complex hybrid Jewish-American modern identities through the ethical reconfiguration of Old World traditional norms. She also points out the tension in Jewish assimilation along gendered lines, where female writers criticized the gender bias of Judaism, never questioned by the male writers, some of whom, in turn, were caught in unconscious clinging to Eastern European traditions.
— Louise O. Vasvári, Stony Brook University
Thanks to her choice of immigrant Eastern European Jewish American literary works under scrutiny and rigorous critical perspective, Dana Mihăilescu reconfigures what both ‘Eastern European’ and ‘immigrant’ signify. By focusing on canonical writers from the Pale of Settlement and now lesser known Jewish authors from Romania, Eastern European Jewish American Narratives, 1890–1930 diversifies the codified meanings of ‘Eastern European’ of the time. Simultaneously, Mihăilescu proposes ‘ethical’ readings of this literature that foreground the contingent position and vulnerability of its immigrant protagonists in their ‘struggle for recognition’ in the new political setting of the United States.
— Karolina Krasuska, University of Warsaw
How lives can be transformed into stories, and how stories can illumine the values and practices of entire societies, constitute the great theme of Dana Mihăilescu’s absorbing book. Focusing on half a dozen figures of varying fame and influence who moved from east to west, she has contributed with admirable sophistication to trans-Atlantic literary history, and has given us a study notable for its clarity and insight as well.
— Stephen Whitfield, Brandeis University