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AL11 Yiddish Classics

Modern Yiddish literature is generally dated to the publication in 1864 of Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh’s novel Dos kleyne mentshele (The Little Person). Abramovitsh brought Yiddish belles-lettres firmly into the modern era through the use of rhetorical strategies that allowed his social reform agenda to be expressed at the highest level. The two most important writers to follow were Sholem Rabinovitsh, popularly known by his alter-ego, Sholem Aleichem, and I. L. Peretz. Rabinovitsh’s best-known works are the stories centering on the character Tevye the Dairyman, which epitomize his “laughter through tears” style. I. L. Peretz brought into Yiddish an array of modernist techniques he encountered in his reading of European fiction. He wrote primarily stories of which Bontshe shvayg (Bontshe the Silent) is one of his best known. Together, these writers are known as the “classic” Yiddish writers; and also, respectively, as the “grandfather,” “father” and “son” of Yiddish literature. In this course, a selection of their best known works will be read in light of the historical and intellectual circumstances in which they were composed.

Course Specifications
Type: Compulsory
Lesson type: Lecture
Hours: 28 (5 credits)
Requirement: essay
Instructor: TBA
Status: The course will be available in 2023.
Course Readings1
Frieden Ken, Classic Yiddish Fiction: Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem and Peretz (SUNY, 1995)