Abstract

Cynthia Ozick has published widely on the categorization and definition of Jewish literature. This article reexamines her definition in “Toward a New Yiddish” in light of Ozick’s essay “Ruth,” published first in Congregation: Contemporary Writers Read the Jewish Bible (1987) and later in her essay collection Metaphor & Memory (1989). In “Ruth,” Ozick’s enigmatic definition of Jewish literature as carrying “the echo of the voice of the Lord of History” can be read as a transtemporal or Talmudic relationship with contradiction and paradox. Utilizing the Jewish approaches to time described in Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi’s Zakhor (1982) and Lynn Kaye’s Time in the Babylonian Talmud: Natural and Imagined Times in Jewish Law and Narrative (2018), this article examines how Ozick’s elliptical writing style underscores the Talmudic character of her writing. Moreover, “Ruth” exemplifies Ozick’s destabilization of linear time as she adopts the role of a modern-day rabbi who reinterprets ancient texts and illustrates how future readers might do the same.

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