Tag Archives: Jewish American Literature

Ethics, Aesthetics, and Canon Formation: A Look at Israeli and Jewish American Literature

by Marilyn Atlas

(Possible) Required Texts: Michael Boylan, Basic Ethics; Caryl Phillips, The Nature of Blood, Jules Chametzky, Hon Felstiner, Hilene Flanzbaum, Kathryn Hellerstein, Jewish American Literature; A.B. Yehoshua, The Liberated Bride; Miriyam Glazer, Dreaming the Actual:  Contemporary Fiction and Poetry by Israeli Women Writers;

Course Description.  We’ll be trying to understand how writing and memory functions in Israeli and Jewish American writing after Auschwitz and how this effects canon formation (I might include some earlier Jewish American voices for contrast  – - how did the ethical questions change after WWII?) First we will try to understand the different ways philosophers have thought about ethics and then we will look at some twentieth century texts and try to understand the relationship between form and ideas in post World War II literature. We will take a look at the way narration, characterization, image, and archetypes work in several pieces of literature. What gets put into the canon, what gets written about, what is avoided, why, and by whom?

Students will be asked to read and review some of these texts:

Yerach Gover, Zionism: The Limits of Moral Discourse in Israeli Hebrew Fiction; Hannan Hever,Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon:  Nation Building and Minority Discourse; Efraim Sider,Breaking Crystal: Writing and Memory After Auschwitz; Valery Kennedy, Edward Said:  A Critical Introduction.

Here are some authors I’ll consider for the course:

  • Shmuel Yosef Agnon
  • Avraham Mapu
  • Haim Nachman Bialik
  • Shaul Tchernickousky
  • Rachel Bluestein
  • Haim Hazaz
  • Sami Michael
  • Aharon Megged
  • David Grossman
  • Avraham Shlonsky
  • Nathan Alterman
  • Lea Goldberg
  • Ephraim Kishon
  • Amoz Oz
  • Meir Shalev
  • Zeruya Shalev
  • Yehuda Amichai
  • Nathan Zach
  • Cynthia Ozick
  • Philip Roth
  • Orhan Pamuk
  • Tova Mirvis
  • Michal Chabon
  • Aharon Megged
  • Aharon Appelfeld
  • Henry Roth
  • Michael Gold
  • Zvi Jagendorf
  • Allen Hoffman

Learning Outcomes:

1.To Understand major ethical theories and their contribution to applied ethics.

2. To understand the conflict among ethical theories and applications

3. To understand the implications of canon formation.

4. To understand what is at stake in a complex culture such as Israel (what is at stake for Israelis?  What is at stake for Jewish Americans?)

5. To understand moral relativism and point of view.

6. To understand concepts such as consequences, duty, virtue, and naturalism.

7. To understand a little better the relationship between ethics and religion, identity, ethnicity and leadership.

8. To explore the term “moral courage.”

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