Catalogue


Rewriting the Jew : assimilation narratives in the Russian empire /
Gabriella Safran.
imprint
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, c2000.
description
xvii, 269 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0804738300 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, c2000.
isbn
0804738300 (alk. paper)
general note
Based on the doctoral dissertation: Narratives of Jewish acculturation in the Russian empire, 1998.
catalogue key
4240016
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Gabriella Safran is Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford University.
Awards
This item was nominated for the following awards:
National Jewish Book Awards, USA, 2000 : Won
Excerpts
Flap Copy
In the Russian Empire of the 1870s and 1880s, while intellectuals and politicians furiously debated the "Jewish Question," more and more acculturating Jews, who dressed, spoke, and behaved like non-Jews, appeared in real life and in literature. This book examines stories about Jewish assimilation by four authors: Grigory Bogrov, a Russian Jew; Eliza Orzeszkowa, a Polish Catholic; and Nikolai Leskov and Anton Chekhov, both Eastern Orthodox Russians. Safran introduces the English-language reader to works that were much discussed in their own time, and she situates Jewish and non-Jewish writers together in the context they shared. For nineteenth-century writers and readers, successful fictional characters were "types," literary creations that both mirrored and influenced the trajectories of real lives. Stories about Jewish assimilators and converts often juxtaposed two contrasting types: the sincere reformer or true convert who has experienced a complete transformation, and the secret recidivist or false convert whose real loyalties will never change. As Safran shows, writers borrowed these types from many sources, including the novel of education produced by the Jewish enlightenment movement (the Haskalah), the political rhetoric of "Positivist" Polish nationalism, the Bible, Shakespeare, and Slavic folk beliefs. Rewriting the Jew casts new light on the concept of type itself and on the question of whether literature can transfigure readers. The classic story of Jewish assimilation describes readers who redesign themselves after the model of fictional characters in secular texts. The writers studied here, though, examine attempts at Jewish self-transformation while wondering about the reformability of personality. In looking at their works, Safran relates the modern Eastern European Jewish experience to a fundamental question of aesthetics: Can art change us?
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2001-11-01:
Safran (Stanford) focuses on four authors, only one of them well known to US readers: Russians Grigory Bogrov (a Jew himself), Nikolai Leskov, Anton Chekhov, and the Polish Eliza Orzeszkowa. An abridged and deliberately distorted Russian translation of Orzeszkowa's ethnographic novel Meir Ezofowicz is also examined. During the 1870s and '80s each of these writers published works (hotly debated in their time) dealing with the question of Jewish assimilation to Russian or Polish culture and conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy or Catholicism. They all "inhabited a shared intellectual environment" in which "the Jewish question" was frequently discussed. Safran demonstrates through close reading and convincing argumentation that, in imagining and presenting their understanding of particular Jews' attempts at acculturation and assimilation, these authors were also developing their own notions of the mutability of both personal and national identity. The chapter on Chekhov is particularly illuminating, offering a new interpretation of "Ivanov" based in part on its resonances with two earlier Chekhov stories. In some ways narrowly focused, this book is filled with fascinating information about the history of biblical exegesis and Jewish stereotypes. Graduate and research collections. M. G. Levine University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Writ[ten] in a clear, engaging and distinctive style. . . . [Safran] shares her insights on many important aspects of Jewish identity, issues of national identity, acculturation, assimilation, conversion, and anti-Semitism, among others, while she studies her four writers and their literary milieu. For academic libraries."Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
"Writ[ten] in a clear, engaging and distinctive style. . . . [Safran] shares her insights on many important aspects of Jewish identity, issues of national identity, acculturation, assimilation, conversion, and anti-Semitism, among others, while she studies her four writers and their literary milieu. For academic libraries."-- Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
"[Safran's] work makes a serious contribution to our understanding of the complex nexus of Jew and Gentile in late Imperial Russia . . . .[It] should be read by anyone interested in the 'Jewish question,' national identities, and literature in the late Russian Empire. "Canadian Slavonic Papers
"Intelligently and creatively, Safran compares closely the work of the Jewish author, Grigory Bogrov; the Polish author, Eliza Orzeszkowa; and the Russian writers Nikolai Leskov and Anton Chekhov with characterizations of Jews found in Russian letters throughout the whole of the century. In doing so, she demonstrates a familiarity and comfort with both critical themes of pre-Soviet Russian literature and literary criticism and with the broader context of Jewish life in the empire. Accordingly, her work is of genuine interest to students of Russian literature as well as for those committed to the investigation of both Jewish and Russian cultural history in the Tsarist empire."The Russian Review
"[Safran's] work makes a serious contribution to our understanding of the complex nexus of Jew and Gentile in late Imperial Russia . . . .[It] should be read by anyone interested in the ‘Jewish question,' national identities, and literature in the late Russian Empire. "-- Canadian Slavonic Papers
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, November 2001
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Back Cover Copy
"Intelligently and creatively, Safran compares closely the work of the Jewish author, Grigory Bogrov; the Polish author, Eliza Orzeszkowa; and the Russian writers Nikolai Leskov and Anton Chekhov with characterizations of Jews found in Russian letters throughout the whole of the century. In doing so, she demonstrates a familiarity and comfort with both critical themes of pre-Soviet Russian literature and literary criticism and with the broader context of Jewish life in the empire. Accordingly, her work is of genuine interest to students of Russian literature as well as for those committed to the investigation of both Jewish and Russian cultural history in the Tsarist empire."--The Russian Review "Writ[ten] in a clear, engaging and distinctive style. . . . [Safran] shares her insights on many important aspects of Jewish identity, issues of national identity, acculturation, assimilation, conversion, and anti-Semitism, among others, while she studies her four writers and their literary milieu. For academic libraries."--Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
Back Cover Copy
"Intelligently and creatively, Safran compares closely the work of the Jewish author, Grigory Bogrov; the Polish author, Eliza Orzeszkowa; and the Russian writers Nikolai Leskov and Anton Chekhov with characterizations of Jews found in Russian letters throughout the whole of the century. In doing so, she demonstrates a familiarity and comfort with both critical themes of pre-Soviet Russian literature and literary criticism and with the broader context of Jewish life in the empire. Accordingly, her work is of genuine interest to students of Russian literature as well as for those committed to the investigation of both Jewish and Russian cultural history in the Tsarist empire."The Russian Review "Writ[ten] in a clear, engaging and distinctive style. . . . [Safran] shares her insights on many important aspects of Jewish identity, issues of national identity, acculturation, assimilation, conversion, and anti-Semitism, among others, while she studies her four writers and their literary milieu. For academic libraries."Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
Main Description
In the Russian Empire of the 1870s and 1880s, while intellectuals and politicians furiously debated the "Jewish Question," more and more acculturating Jews, who dressed, spoke, and behaved like non-Jews, appeared in real life and in literature. This book examines stories about Jewish assimilation by four authors: Grigory Bogrov, a Russian Jew; Eliza Orzeszkowa, a Polish Catholic; and Nikolai Leskov and Anton Chekhov, both Eastern Orthodox Russians. Safran introduces the English-language reader to works that were much discussed in their own time, and she situates Jewish and non-Jewish writers together in the context they shared. For nineteenth-century writers and readers, successful fictional characters were "types," literary creations that both mirrored and influenced the trajectories of real lives. Stories about Jewish assimilators and converts often juxtaposed two contrasting types: the sincere reformer or true convert who has experienced a complete transformation, and the secret recidivist or false convert whose real loyalties will never change. As Safran shows, writers borrowed these types from many sources, including the novel of education produced by the Jewish enlightenment movement (the Haskalah), the political rhetoric of "Positivist" Polish nationalism, the Bible, Shakespeare, and Slavic folk beliefs. Rewriting the Jewcasts new light on the concept of type itself and on the question of whether literature can transfigure readers. The classic story of Jewish assimilation describes readers who redesign themselves after the model of fictional characters in secular texts. The writers studied here, though, examine attempts at Jewish self-transformation while wondering about the reformability of personality. In looking at their works, Safran relates the modern Eastern European Jewish experience to a fundamental question of aesthetics: Can art change us?
Bowker Data Service Summary
This study examines texts written in the 1870s and 1880s, during a period of accelerating Jewish acculturation and loud debate over the Jewish Question in Eastern Europe.
Table of Contents
Illustrationsp. xv
A Note on Transliterationp. xvii
Introductionp. 1
An Unprecedented Type of Human Beingp. 26
The Nation and the Wide Worldp. 63
Jew as Text, Jew as Readerp. 108
Mutable, Permutable, Approximate, and Relativep. 147
Conclusionp. 190
Notesp. 201
Bibliographyp. 241
Indexp. 261
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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