ENGL 259
Ethics of Jewish American Fiction Spring 2020
Division I
Cross-listed REL 259 / ENGL 259 / JWST 259

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After the Second World War, Jewish American writers who wrote about Jewish characters and Jewish themes were increasingly celebrated as central figures in American fiction. Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick and Philip Roth are among those who gained prominence in this period. These writers were literary innovators and often addressed broad humanistic themes. But they also struggled with profound questions that arose in the postwar period about Jewishness, the legacy of the Holocaust, and what it means to be an American. In this course we will read the above authors and others. We will focus, in particular, on the distinctive ethical and political ideas, emotions, and aspirations that animate their work. The course will begin with a study of theoretical approaches that will provide the basis for our ethical criticism: we will read, for instance, Lionel Trilling, Wayne Booth, Martha Nussbaum, and Noël Carroll. Then we will delve into the fiction, following a trail that begins in the postwar period and continues in fictions by Erica Jong, Rebecca Goldstein, Michael Chabon, Gary Shteyngart, and others. Can we find a distinctive Jewish American ethics in Jewish American fiction?
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 18
Class#: 3673
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, one take-home exam on theoretical approaches to ethical criticism; four short essays
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Religion majors, Jewish Studies concentrators, and English majors
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
REL 259 Division II ENGL 259 Division I JWST 259 Division II
Attributes: JWST Core Electives

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