The Christian Humanist Podcast, Episode #110: Jewish-American Fiction

General Introduction
- Listener feedback
– Christian Humanist Profiles

The Jewish Literary Explosion
- Ex-minorities
– Assimilation, on both sides
– The face of intellectual America
– Achievement in education
– The New York Intellectuals
– Stage and Screen
– All-Americanness

What Makes a Jewish Novel?
- Is it a spectrum?
– The Christian Humanist Podcast Family Crest
– Rejection of the category by the writers
– What is ethnicity?
– Regional literature
– The importance of language

The Holocaust and the Jewish-American Novel
- Americans stay in the dark
– Russian treatment of Jews
– Bellow is slow to speak
– Chabon’s frozen chosen
– Suffering as the center of Jewish fiction

Fiction and the Diaspora
- Roth explores his own reception
– Anderson goes a-soap-boxing
– Class and ethnicity in assimilation
– Woody Allen’s great shapeshifter
– Post-assimilation novelists

Is There a Terminus?
- The toll of postmodernity
– The ex-minority’s luxury
– A change in social realities
– Judaism’s portability

Questions for Christians to Ask
- “All men are Jews”
– The Jewish experience as metaphor
– Learning sympathy—and starting with Malamud
– Why read about anybody? Why read at all?
– Making the familiar unfamiliar

1 comments
Todd Pedlar
Todd Pedlar

Gentlemen -

I much appreciated this show, particularly the discussion of the difficulty of truly classifying Jewish-American fictiion as such, and the opening discussion about the literary explosion among Jewish-American authors.  It's interesting to explore the connection between the reception of and coherence of Jewish-American fiction vs. African-American fiction... are there points in common as well as real differences?  I also appreciated the discussion of the overlap between what would be classified - to the extent, again, that it can be - as Jewish-American fiction vs. fiction deriving thematic material from the immigrant experience, or fiction in general that explores the alienation of individuals from themselves and their communities.  You gave us a lot to chew on and for that as is always the case with the podcast I'm thankful.  

You also gave me a number of works to explore - my experience with Jewish-American fiction is essentially limited to the work of Chaim Potok and short stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer;  I'm a lot more familiar with Kafka than any domestic Jewish authors (now there's a show idea... Kafka?)  

I came into the broadcast assuming I might hear a little of your thoughts on Chaim Potok - both out of particular interest and enjoyment of his fiction, but also because an off-Broadway production of My Name is Asher Lev has been winning lots of accolades of late.  Any comments on Potok's particular brand of Jewish-American writing?  Certainly he's different because of his focus on Hasidic communities rather than the more assimilated Jewish communities that you spoke of on the show, but his works do explore some quite powerful themes.

Thanks as always for great work,

Todd