When it comes to Jewish American literature, not to mention American literature in general, I confess to being a recovering snob. In graduate school my subject was Victorian fiction. With Austen, the Brontës, Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope, and George Eliot in my stable, I could not see how my friends who were studying American literature could even think about getting in the horse race. When I left English for Hebrew literature, I evinced a similar hauteur regarding the worth of the cultural products of American Jewry. Yes, there may be Henry Roth, Malamud, Bellow, and Philip Roth, but if we’re talking about the Jewishness of Jewish literature, there can be no reasonable comparison to Bialik, Brenner, Agnon, Uri Zvi Greenberg et al., not to mention the Hebrew language in which they wrote. My snobbishness was based on a widespread attitude at the time, which held that, despite its endearing ethnic quirks...
The Future of Jewish American Literature: Notes from a Recovering Snob
alan mintz was the Chana Kekst Professor of Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary. A world authority on Hebrew literature, he was the author of numerous books, including Hurban: Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature; Popular Culture and the Shaping of Holocaust Memory in America; and Sanctuary in the Wilderness: A Critical Introduction to American Hebrew Poetry. During the last years of his life he turned his attention back to one of first interests, the work of S. Y. Agnon, the greatest Hebrew fiction writer of modern times. He was working on a biography of Agnon at the time of his death. Mintz’s last book, which appeared shortly after he passed away, was a study of Agnon’s late-career writing, Ancestral Tales: Reading the Buczacz Stories of S. Y. Agnon. He died at the age of seventy in May of 2017.
Alan Mintz; The Future of Jewish American Literature: Notes from a Recovering Snob. Studies in American Jewish Literature (1981-) 1 February 2018; 37 (1): 101–104. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/studamerjewilite.37.1.0101
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