A new literature course exploring ethnic and religious diversity in the United States will expose students to great Jewish American writers often overlooked in American literature. Some of the texts to be read in the first-ever Jewish American literature course at Ursinus include Abraham Cahan, Yekl and The Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto, Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, Philip Roth, Goodbye Columbus and Other Stories, Tony Kushner, Caroline or Change, Art Spiegelman, Maus I and II and Nathan Englander, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.
“Jewish immigrants grappled with the differences they faced when they arrived in the U.S. (religious, social, cultural); they didn’t simply become “Americans,” they became American Jews, an identity that was distinct and distinctly hybrid,” says Meredith Goldsmith Associate Professor of English and Director, Mellon Teaching and Learning Initiative. “I also hope to share with the students that idea that these stories aren’t simply about immigration and the displacements and cultural changes that resulted; Jewish American writers have been weighing in on issues of importance to their day throughout the twentieth century, whether it’s race and ethnicity, social class, or the role of religion in society.”
Students will be reading writers as diverse as Kushner, Spiegelman, and Pearl Abraham (a woman born in a Hasidic community who ultimately left it). The course also includes a docent-led tour of the National Museum of American Jewish History downtown. “I’m interested in exploring with the students what commonalities exist in this diverse body of contemporary literature,” says Goldsmith, who earned her Ph.D. at Columbia University.