Date of Award

1-1-2010

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

English Language and Literatures

Sub-Department

English

First Advisor

Catherine Keyser

Abstract

In my thesis, the category "Jewish American literature" pinpoints a historical and cultural moment specific to these immigrant writers and identifies a set of concerns about identity--religious, ethnic and national--stemming from their position within the space of the Lower East Side. Just as literary critics categorized the publications of these four writers as "Jewish," "American," "ethnic," or finally, "Jewish American," so did the authors themselves create characters that posit particular understandings of these categories through their employment of language--dominant, native or social--and their navigation of the urban landscape of the Lower East Side.

In spite of their formal and thematic differences, the four writers in this thesis--Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, Michael Gold and Henry Roth--share an awareness of the complexities inherent in imagining and depicting a specific space and in transposing these difficulties into the written word. The conditions of these writers, using the language of the dominant culture and writing for the dominant culture, allow for a total identification between writer and city, ultimately creating a city (New York) and a language (English) that carry the reverberations of another culture and language. Thus each of these writers positions immigrant characters to negotiate the complexities of heteroglossia as they navigate the crowded city streets

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