International Conference in cooperation with the Department of General and Comparative Literature and the Department of English Literature at Ghent University
Universities of Antwerp and Ghent, 6-7 November 2006
Papers are invited for a two-day comparative literature conference on postwar Jewish writing in North America and Western Europe.
Perhaps more than any other ethnic or religious group in the US, Jewish authors have shaped the face of 20th century American literature. The rich tradition of Jewish American writing ranges from the more peripheral immigrant novels written by Abraham Cahan, Mary Antin, Anzia Yezierska, and Henry Roth to the postwar novels by Saul Bellow, Bernard Malamud, and Philip Roth which catapulted Jewish writing into the center of the American literary system. By the late 1970s, however, Irving Howe famously predicted the demise of the Jewish American novel due to a depletion of the cultural material and the memories from which it originally sprang. While the recent deaths of Arthur Miller and Saul Bellow have indeed ended an era, new generations of gifted and promising Jewish novelists are clearly proving Howe wrong. The thematic diversity in the work of writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, Pearl Abraham, Michael Chabon, David Mamet, Art Spiegelman, Allegra Goodman, Thane Rosenbaum, Melvin Jules Bukiet, and many others, makes these authors perhaps less easily identifiable as a literary group, but it does suggest that the Jewish novel in America is not likely to suffer from anemia anytime in the near future.
Similarly, and more surprisingly, the revitalization of Jewish culture in Europe is one of its more remarkable cultural developments in recent years. In the first years after the end of World War II, no one could foresee that European Jewry would recover so rapidly and vigorously from the trauma and the losses caused by the Shoah. And yet, just a quarter century later, Jewish culture in countries such as France, Germany, Austria, Italy, England, Hungary, and even Poland began to prosper again. Since 1980, an ever-growing number of Jewish writers have been contributing to the reemergence of an extremely lively and heterogeneous Jewish literary culture in the New Europe. This literature captures the main challenges confronting the post-Shoah generations of Europe: the desire to commemorate the lives of those who were killed in the camps; the need to address the ruptures in Jewish life and culture; and the determination to face the attractions and limitations of reclaiming a Jewish identity impervious to assimilation and to threats of anti-Semitism. European contributors to Jewish writing include, for example, Jessica Durlacher, Arnon Grunberg, Marcel Möring, Robert Schindel,Doron Rabinovici, Robert Menasse, Henry Raczymow, Patrick Modiano, Myrian Anissimov, Jonathan Wilson, Julia Pascal, William Sutcliffe, Clara Sereni, and Angela Bianchini.