ABSTRACT

Charles Reznikoff, according to established scholarship, is an exemplar of disinheritance, an ideal representative for the modernist and modern Jewish self. But Reznikoff also inherits and finds in this an alternative to both urban capitalism and market-influenced modernist publishing. Manually setting type at a printing press in his parents’ basement, Reznikoff self-published many of his early books while also working in the family clothing business. Writing was a craft that continued, rather than broke from, his family trade. His production of texts, following his depiction of his parents’ textile-work in the rarely examined memoir Family Chronicle, takes part in what we can term a “fabriculture” that resists commodity valuation in modern industry and modernist publishing. In the 1930 novel By the Waters of Manhattan, Reznikoff’s protagonist uses the fabricultural lessons of material production to rescue the individuality of the self from the anonymity and interchangeability of the modern city. Reznikoff’s poetry and prose weave together his parents’ lives in textile with his own in text, establishing this inherited family trade as a metaphor for crafting a whole garment from the disparate elements of the modern Jewish self.

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