This course will introduce students to some of the greatest authors of the modern Yiddish literary tradition as it developed from the late 19th century onward—and will demonstrate that everything people think they know about Yiddish-speaking culture is wrong. Beginning with works by the “Three Classic Writers” Mendele Mokher-Seforim, Sholem Aleichem, and Y.L. Peretz, we will continue into the 20th century to explore poetry and fiction by authors responding to the dramatic upheavals and cataclysms of their time. The writings we will examine reflect the unique situation of Yiddish-speaking Jews, who worked in a language and culture under enormous and constant pressure. Utterly unlike literature in any other language, this collection of works is just a taste of this fantastically rich artistic tradition, whose clarity and candor provide an astonishing test case of the potential and limits of art in making sense of the world.
- Mendele Mokher-Seforim, “Shem and Japheth on a Train”
- Sholem Aleichem, “On Account of a Hat,” “The Haunted Tailor”
- Y.L. Peretz, “Bontshe the Silent,” “Three Gifts,” “The Dead Town”
- Moyshe Nadir, “The Man Who Slept Through the End of the World”
Dara Horn received her PhD in comparative literature from Harvard University in 2006, studying Hebrew and Yiddish. In 2007 she was chosen by Granta magazine as one of America’s “Best Young American Novelists.” Her first novel, In the Image, published by W.W. Norton when she was 25, received a 2003 National Jewish Book Award, the 2002 Edward Lewis Wallant Award, and the 2003 Reform Judaism Fiction Prize. Her second novel, The World to Come (2006), received the 2006 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction, the 2007 Harold U. Ribalow Prize, and has been translated into eleven languages. Her third novel, All Other Nights (2009), was one of Booklist’s 25 Best Books of the Decade. Her nonfiction e-book The Rescuer (2012) was published by Tablet and became a Kindle bestseller. Her fourth novel, A Guide for the Perplexed, was published by W.W. Norton in September 2013, and was selected as one of Booklist’s Best Books of 2013. She has taught courses in Jewish literature and Israeli history at Harvard, Sarah Lawrence College, and City University of New York, and has lectured at over two hundred universities and cultural institutions throughout North America and in Israel. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four children.
Kate Havard Rozansky