My Silly Bus?

Voice Card  -  Volume 26  -  Stuart Card Number 9  -  Fri, Nov 6, 1992 9:58 AM

This is ONE OF 2 responses to VC 25 Yumi 7 ("Me Too!")...

Expand the Text Field please!

Yumi, you ask what works I taught in my American Jewish Literature course last spring. I'm happy to comply with the request. The best way to do this is to paste in my syllabus for the course. I've added comments for you in brackets [like that] that say something about each of the books, stories, or poets that we read in class. If you have any more questions please let me know. O.K.?

English 275 / Spring 1992


1) Required:

  • Irving Howe, ed., Jewish-American Stories (Mentor Books) [I'll say something about the stories that I assigned when we get to the day-to-day part of the syllabus.]
  • Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (Persea Books) [This is a book that has been "rediscovered" in recent years, by femininsts in particular. Yezierska wrote this tale of a girl trying to break out on her own to claim an education for herself in 1925. The book's heroine has to struggle against a tyrannical father and the strait jacket of her culture, which severely limits the opportunities for women to live a life of the mind. It's a bit melodramatic, but historically it's an important book.]
  • Henry Roth, Call It Sleep (Noonday) [A must read. One of the best novels ever written. It's about a boy growing up in the ghetto -- and so much more!]
  • Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl (Vintage) [This is a novella by one of our best contemporary writers. It's about a woman, a survivor from the concentration camps, living out her last years in Miami. Very moving and thought provoking.]
  • Art Spiegelman, MAUS (A Survivor's Tale) (Pantheon) [This is a comic book-novel about a) the Holocaust and b) the relationship of a son and his father, who is a survivor of Auschwitz. It's wonderful reading/looking experience. I reviewed this book in Archipelago, Issue 22, by the way .]
  • Michelle Herman, Missing (OSU Press) [This is a novel by a third generation Jew. She is basically our age, an assimilated Jew trying to come to turns with her tradition.]
  • English 275 Course Packet -- available at Zip Copy Shop, located at the corner of Chittenden and High Streets (across from the Law School)
2) Recommended, but Optional:
  • Philip Roth, Portnoy's Complaint (Simon & Schuster) [One of the funniest books ever written. The main character, Alexander Portnoy, complains about how neurotic his Jewish upbringing has made him. Portnoy is a combination of Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, and his pal Costanza.]
  • Saul Bellow, Seize The Day (Penguin Books) [A short novel by a Nobel Prize winning novelist. The ending is one of the great ending in all of literature.]

Week #1 (March 31, April 2)

  • Tu: Intro.
  • Th: Aleichem, "On Account of a Hat" (Anthol., pp. 18-25) [This is a funny, touching tale about Anti-Semitism in the old country,i.e., Russia.]; "Gimpel the Fool" (Anthol., pp. 37-50) [One of the best short stories ever written, in my opinion. It's basically about the need to believe when it seems impossible to continue to believe].
Week #2 (April 7, 9)
  • Tu: Yezierska, Bread Givers, pp. 1-151.
  • Th: Yezierska, Bread Givers, pp. 155-297.
Week #3 (April 14, 16)
  • Tu: Roth, Call It Sleep, pp. 9-207.
  • Th: Roth, Call It Sleep, pp. 208-261.
Week #4 (April 21, 23)
  • Tu: Roth, Call It Sleep, pp. 262-441.
  • Th: Yiddish-American Poetry [It's a little known fact in poetry or wider literature circles that there was a large body of world class poetry written in the first half of this century in this country by poets writing in Yiddish, the common workaday language of most of the Jewish immigrants to our shores. One of the most moving things about this poetry, to me, is that these poets -- A. Leyeles, Jacob Glatshteyn, Malke Heifetz-Tussman, Boris Vaynshteyn, H. Leyvik, J.L. Teller, Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, and others -- wrote their poems with the painful knowledge that their tongue was dying -- either through assimilation or concentration camps -- and they kept writing anyway. The poems in my Course Packet are taken from an anthology entitled AMERICAN YIDDISH POETRY, edited by Benjamin and Barbara Harshaw, Univ. of California Press.], Course Packet: pp. 1-2 ("A Note on Yiddish Transcription and Spelling); p. 3-9 (A. Leyeles); pp. 10-27 (Jacob Glatshteyn); pp. 33-42 (J.L. Teller); pp. 43-47 (Malka Heifetz-Tussman); pp. 67-72 (Statements on Yiddish Poetry).
Week #5 (April 28, 30)
  • Tu: Paper #1 due; Yiddish-American Poetry, Course Packet: pp. 29-32 (M.L. Halpern); pp. 48-57 (Boris Vaynshteyn); pp. 58-66 (H. Leyvik).
  • Th: Olsen, "Tell Me A Riddle" [This is a classic short story/novella about an elderly couple and the wife's efforts to claim, finally, at the end of her lfe, her own psychic and physical space.] (Anthol., pp. 82-117).
Week #6 (May 5, 6, and 7)
  • Tu: Midterm. [You're excepted from this Yumi]
  • Wed: Tillie Olsen Reading, 8:00 P.M. in the Wexner Center (Note: Attendance to this event is a course requirement. If you cannot make the reading, your assignment is to write a 2 page paper - in addition to the other three required papers - on "Tell Me A Riddle").
  • Th: Tillie Olsen comes to class!
Week #7 (May 12, 14)
  • Tu: Paper #2 due; Ozick, The Shawl: pp. 3-9 ("The Shawl"), and pp. 13-70 ("Rosa").
  • Th: Spiegelman, MAUS.
Week #8 (May 19-21)
  • Tu: Roth, "Defender of the Faith" (Anthol., pp. 373-401) [This is an early short story by the author of Portnoy's Complaint. It's about a Jewish sargeant in WW2 dealing with Jewish recruits at an army base in Missouri.]; Malamud, "The Magic Barrel" [A classic short story by Bernard Malamud about a young Rabbi who tries to find a wife the old fashioned way -- through a matchmaker.] (Anthol., pp. 235-251).
  • Th: American-Jewish Poets Who Wrote/Write in English, Course Packet: pp. 74-104 [Of course, there are many poets who are Jews, like myself, for whom English is our mother tonue. In my course packet I include poems by Delmore Schwartz, Karl Shapiro, Denise Levertov, Gerald Stern, Philip Levine, Allen Ginsberg, Andrienne Rich, Linda Pastan, Edward Hirsch, and Jacqueline Osherow.]; Selections from The Song of Solomon and The Song of Songs [This is a new translation by a Marcia Falk, a scholar/poet who some would argue presents a feminists translation of the Songs. Falk would argue that her translation, which presents women talking frankly about their sexuality, brings out the original intention of this great biblical book. If you want to read what she's done, her book is called THE SONG OF SONGS/ A New Translation and Interpretation by Marcia Falk, Harper Collins Press, 1990.], Course Packet: pp. 105-147.
Week #9 (May 26-28)
  • Tu: Bellow, "The Old System" [This is a short story about assimilation, family, and America.] (Anthol., pp. 301-332); Herman, Missing, pp. 1-89.
  • Th: Herman, Missing, pp. 90-146.
Week #10 (June 2, 4)
  • Tu: Paper #3 due; Allen, Annie Hall [Yes, how could I teach a course about American Jewish Literature without a nod at Woody Allen, probably our country's most well known Jewish artist. Annie Hall is about a lot of things, one of them being the relationship of a Jewish man and a Gentile woman.], Course Packet, pp. 150-177.
  • Th: Allen, Annie Hall, Course Packet, pp. 177-200.

O.K., Yumi, I hope presenting the syllabus with my additional comments isn't too confusing. Enjoy.