Semester: Sommersemester 2016

3.02.143 S “Jewish. I mean, by birth”: Hybridity and Mysticism in the Contemporary Jewish Novel


  • Di., 30.08.2016, 09:00 - 16:00
  • Do., 01.09.2016, 09:00 - 16:00
  • Mi., 31.08.2016, 09:00 - 16:00
  • Mo., 29.08.2016, 09:00 - 16:00


What does it mean to be Jewish? The contemporary ‘Jewish’ novel is no longer necessarily concerned with coping with the past as a persecuted religious minority, but rather deals with the compatibility of religious practice and everyday life in specific cultural contexts. Oftentimes, traditional religious practices are opposed to secularization tendencies, the cultural Jewish heritage contrasted with the acculturation into national or social identities: “[H]ow do writers who self-consciously see themselves as multicultural members of a clearly delineated group (ethnic, social, religious), or see themselves as inherently hybrid of such groups, imagine minorities such as Jews?” (Gilman 127).
In order to address questions like these, we will read, discuss and analyze the following examples of what could be called ‘the contemporary Jewish novel’:
In Myla Goldberg’s Bee Season a young protagonist navigates life between a curiously dysfunctional family, her quest for popularity as an American teenager and a newfound gift for spelling that promises to unlock the secrets of Jewish mysticism.
The Autograph Man, Zadie Smith’s second novel, features Alex-Li Tandem, who is of Chinese-Jewish descent, lives in a London suburb and looks for transcendence by means of controlled substances while trying to come to terms with his father’s death and drawing up versions of his own (blasphemous) Kabbalah.
This seminar takes place in one block of four days, August 29 - September 1 (approx. 9:00-15:00). We will have one preparatory meeting (approx. 1 hour), 6 - 4 weeks prior to the seminar in order to sort out reading and presentations.
Please buy and read:
Goldberg, Myla. Bee Season. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. Print.
Smith, Zadie. The Autograph Man. 2002. London: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Additional reading (selection):
Gilman, Sander L. “’We're Not Jews’: Imagining Jewish History and Jewish Bodies in Contemporary Multicultural Literature.” Modern Judaism 23. 2 (2003): 126-155. Print.
Mączyńska, Magdalena. “Toward a Postsecular Literary Criticism: Examining Ritual Gestures in Zadie Smith’s Autograph Man”. Religion and Literature 41.3 (2009): 73-94. Print.
Horowitz, Sara R. “Mediating Judaism: Mind, Body, Spirit, and Contemporary North American Jewish Fiction.” AJS Review 30.2 (2006): 231-253. Print.



  • ang614 Genres: Cultural, Historical and Theoretical Perspectives


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