Abstract

While figures such as Ruth R. Wisse hold that Cynthia Ozick’s melding of fiction with nonfiction is a rejection of authorial responsibility, Ozick’s fictionalized accounts of real-life writers has a literary precedent: Virginia Woolf. Just as Woolf speculates about how Austen might have become an experimental, proto-modernist writer had she lived longer, Ozick speculates that Woolf herself might have fully realized her genius if she had lived like her sister. By examining how Ozick adopts Woolf’s technique of turning real-life writers into her own characters to speculate about their lives, this article argues that Ozick revises Woolf’s approach—using literary-historical counterfactuals to redress the historical omission of women writers—to counter the suppression of Jewish writers in history. This article makes a case for how Ozick’s creative rewritings of other writers’ lives is not a rejection of authorial responsibility, but a real attempt to redress the unfulfilled promise of real people whose lives were unjustly cut short by violent historical realities.

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