Jewish American Literature & Culture

American Studies Seminar: The Promised Land

Syllabus Yiddishkeit Student Pages Resources Laura Leibman

Jews Before America
1. " Food will win the war." Library of Congress[ LC-USZC4-9866] View

2."Jewish woman and husband, Tunis, Tunisia. Library of Congress" [LC-USZ62-88331]View

Torah Scroll (Upper Left). Oregon Jewish Museum. View.

 

Required Texts:

HOW JEWS BECAME WHITE FOLKS AND WHAT THAT SAYS ABOUT RACE IN AMERICA (BRODKIN, KAREN )


HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES: STUDIES AMONG THE TENEMENTS OF NEW YORK (JACOB A. RIIS)


IN SEARCH OF JEWISH AMERICAN CULTURE (STEPHEN WHITFIELD)
JEWISH AMERICAN LITERATURE : A NORTON ANTHOLOGY (COMPILED JULES CHAMETZKY et. al).


KAATERSKILL FALLS (ALLEGRA GOODMAN)


THE CHANGELINGS (JO SINCLAIR)


THE CHOSEN (CHAIM POTOK)

Recommended Texts:

THE JEWISH BOOK OF WHY (ALFRED KOTLACH)


THE NEW JOYS OF YIDDISH (LAWRENCE BUSH ET AL)

Reed College Bookstore

Syllabus

 

Assignments

[WEBPAGE] [FAMILY HISTORY] ["MELTING POT," "ASSIMILATION WOES," "TESHUVA" ASSIGNMENTS] [FINAL PROJECT]

WEBPAGE
You will be responsible for creating your own personal homepage as well as posting information to it and to your group's Web Pages. On Wednesday Jan. 29th we will meet in in our usual room to learn how to use the technology you will need to complete the course assignments, and to create your homepage. If you already know how to make a Web Pages, we still need you in class to help others, to share tips on what makes a good page, and to begin to make your group's Web Page.
Three items need to be posted on your Web Pages throughout the semester:

(1) Your family history

(2) Your portion of the three assignments from the "Melting Pot, "Assimilation Woes," and "Teshuva" sections of the syllabus (one each of a textual annotation, a bibliography entry, and an annotated cultural artifact);

(3) Your final project.

There are no other papers of exams in this course.
Please note: web projects must be posted as listed below. You may, however, continue to update them throughout the semester.

[WEBPAGE] [FAMILY HISTORY] ["MELTING POT," "ASSIMILATION WOES," "TESHUVA" ASSIGNMENTS] [FINAL PROJECT]



FAMILY HISTORY
Write a family history outlining when your family came to the United States and what they have done since the arrived. Your goal is to test the standard narrative given for Jewish American History in the 20th century as provided by Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology (JALNA) using at least three of the four eras:


A. The Great Tide, 1881-1924.
B. From Margin to Mainstream in Difficult Times, 1924-1945.
C. Achievement and Ambivalence, 1945-1973.
D. Wandering and Return: Since 1973.


If your family was not Jewish, explain what ethnicity (ethnicities) they are and compare their trajectory to the one given in JALNA. For many ethnic groups, the trajectory will look similar, but will vary depending on when that group arrived in the United States, how they arrived, and the extent that group was perceived to be "white."


For this project please use at least three of the following sources:


1. Interview with a Family Member of a different generation than your own (Resource: Getting Started: What is Oral History?)
2. Documents from Family (Birth Certificates, Marriage
Certificates, Immigration Papers, etc)
3. Family Photos
4. Family Tree (Template)

For each of the three eras you cover, you should answer what it meant to be a(n America)Jew" (or an American of a different ethnic group) for your family.

Expected Length: one paragraph to page per era. Three eras required. Date Due: Draft 2.5.04; Final Version Posted 2.16.042.

[WEBPAGE] [FAMILY HISTORY] ["MELTING POT," "ASSIMILATION WOES," "TESHUVA" ASSIGNMENTS] [FINAL PROJECT]

"MELTING POT," "ASSIMILATION WOES," "TESHUVA" ASSIGNMENTS
A. PRIMARY TEXTS: ANNOTATION
Overview: Compose a hypertext to explain one of the primary documents and to connect it to the other readings, theory, discussions, and classmates presentations. Your audience is other members of the class as well as friends who are interested in the class but were unable to take it this semester. (I.e. do not assume prior knowledge when you build the page.)
Detailed Instructions: First, your group will need to agree on which primary text you would like to use (feel free to consult with me). Once you have determined the primary text, each person should choose a paragraph, illustration, or stanza to annotate as a hypertext. You may break this text down into sections, illustrate it with relevant visual images, or connect it to whatever other materials you deem useful. One goal of this hypertext is to provide other members of the class with information they would need to know in order to understand the primary text. You may want to include links to relevant allusions, other parts of the text, other primary texts we have studied, critical articles, prior postings by your classmates, or ideas covered in class discussion. Since your goal is to unpack these connections, you will need to explain your links so that outsiders will know why they are relevant and important. Your links should include two connections to other postings by your classmates (either from this section of the course, or from earlier ones). You may also include a brief introduction to the passage if you find that helpful. Your annotation should be posted on your Web Pages and should be linked to on your group's Web Pages at least 24 hours before you are schedule to lead discussion.


Deadlines: This assignment is to be posted the night before your group is scheduled to lead discussion on the primary text for the "Melting Pot," "Assimilation Woes," or "Teshuva" sections of the syllabus. Note that this means that you will only do one of these annotations per semester. The purpose of this assignment is to provide the rest of the class with a close reading of an excerpt of the primary text.

Evaluation: I will be asking both your group mates and yourself to evaluate the pages based on (1) how well your page accomplish the assignment and (2) how well your page works as a web page. You should feel free to make changes to your page and update it as you learn new tricks or think of new connections.

Resources for Locating & Analyzing Literary Texts

 

B. CRITICAL ARTICLES: ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY ENTRIES
The night before your group is scheduled to lead discussion on the critical articles for the "Melting Pot," "Assimilation Woes," or "Teshuva" sections of the syllabus, you will be responsible for posting an annotated bibliography entry on a relevant critical article. See the "sample annotated bibliography" in the class reader for examples. At the top of the abstract should be the title of the article and the citation in MLA format. This abstract should be emailed to the class and posted on your Web Pages at least 24 hours prior to the day you have signed up for on the syllabus. Your abstract should be posted on your Web Pages and should be linked to on your group's Web Pages at least 24 hours before you are schedule to lead discussion.

Locating Critical Articles; Tips on Writing a Critical Article Synopsis ("Précis")

C. CULTURAL ARTIFACTS
This assignment is to be posted the night before your group is scheduled to lead discussion on the cultural artifact for the "Melting Pot," "Assimilation Woes," OR "Teshuva" sections of the syllabus. Each member of the group should identify one cultural artifact on the web that relates to the discussion from the preceding days. Provide a brief (one paragraph) analysis of that artifact that links it to (1) the questions raised on the first day of the unit; (2) the primary texts; and (3) the critical articles. Your may find Stephen Whitefield's In Search of Jewish American Culture to be a useful starting point for analyzing your object. Your artifact and analysis should be posted on your Web Pages and should be linked to on your group's Web Pages at least 24 hours before you are schedule to lead discussion.

Resources for Locating & Analyzing Material Culture

[WEBPAGE] [FAMILY HISTORY] ["MELTING POT," "ASSIMILATION WOES," "TESHUVA" ASSIGNMENTS] [FINAL PROJECT]


3. FINAL PROJECT: CRITICAL EDITION
The final assignment for this course is to write an on-line critical edition for one of the primary texts for this semester. Your edition should include


1. A critical introduction that positions the work in the context of the historical era, Jewish American literature, and critical readings on the period.
2. A sample page from the text that is annotated with links that help the reader understand the text as a whole and its relationship to the ideas covered in this course.
3. A Cultural Contexts section that includes at least 5 related cultural artifacts and a brief explanation of the relevance of each to the primary text
4. A bibliography both of works used in preparing your project and of works that the reader might turn to if (s)he wanted to learn more about the subjects you have discussed.
5. A connection to at least one of the Family Histories (either yours or your classmates').


Your final project is intended to build off of the work you and your classmates have been doing all semester. You should feel free to use some of the materials you have written in your earlier assignments and you should link your page to the work of at least three other students in the course (e.g. prior assignments, course discussion, annotations).Due date: All final projects must be posted by Monday of Finals week (5.10.04).

[WEBPAGE] [FAMILY HISTORY] ["MELTING POT," "ASSIMILATION WOES," "TESHUVA" ASSIGNMENTS] [FINAL PROJECT]


What is Problem Based Learning?

Problem-based learning is a new approach for teaching interdisciplinary studies. One of the great problems new researchers face in interdisciplinary studies is how to teach people to reach across disciplines and boundaries in new ways. Problem-based learning argues that the best way to teach people to do this is to give them the hands-on experience of being a researcher, rather than dogmatically telling people how to be creative thinkers.
 
American Studies and Cultural Studies believe that intellectual problems are often best solved not by ghettoizing texts or demanding that methodologies remain rigidly within boundaries, but by being creative and combining resources. The goal of this course is to teach you to be able to do this with comfort. Rather than just reading about American Studies you will "do" American Studies. How, you will learn, would a researcher go about understanding how Jews became "white" and what this means. What primary evidence could you use? To what secondary resources might you turn? What cultural documents and artifacts would enrich your reading? By pooling your ideas and findings, everyone will be able to take their own individual inquires further. Although I will lay out three main "problems" for you, at the end of the first day of each section I will turn to you for the questions you have about the materials. Learning to ask your own questions is important in any research project, but perhaps even more so with Jewish American Literature & Culture, where the way you ask the question will determine the answers you find. You will find that the questions that perplex you about the the different eras are often the precise ones the writers themselves struggled with as well. I will give you three basic research questions, research skills, and some primary documents. Where we go from there is up to you.

Why the Web? (with Thanks to Gail Sherman)
Why will be we using a web page for much of our work? First, some resources are available only on the Internet, and some resources are available in a more timely way on the Internet. Next, the Internet allows us to communicate and pool resources not only better amongst each other, but between out community and other practitioners of American Studies. Additionally, computer texts provide a different model of intertextuality from the one supplied by the familiar codex (or bound book). Technology provides us with a way not only to present interdisciplinary analyses more effectively: it is a format that assumes that text, image, sound, and analysis belong together! Finally, only by using the Internet can one learn how to use it, and how to distinguish among its various uses as a source of information, misinformation, and communication; as techno-stimulation, entertainment, and a mode of access to other scholars.
 
All of the assignments for this course are web-based. (See assignments) These assignments are intended to be fun as well as challenging. Each one is designed to help you practice the skills you will need for your final project, a critical edition of one of the texts covered this semester. For some of these assignments you will be asked to work in a group; in the end, however, your work is always your own. That is, I will evaluate the work you post on your own Web Pages and how well you make use of the resources posted other members of the class.

Introduction: WHAT IS AN (AMERICAN) JEW?

Week 1
Problem 1: WHAT IS AN (AMERICAN) JEW?

What are the defining characteristics of American Jews? What makes them different from other Jews? What is distinctive about their literature and lives?


T 1.27 INTRODUCTION: What is a Jew? Readings Artifacts. Creating Interview Questions.
Resource: Getting Started: What is Oral History?

R 1.29 REQUIRED WEB SEMINAR (Regular Room)
Bring with you: one paragraph of text and URL of one web site.

Readings: Overviews for the following sections in Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology: The Great Tide, 1881-1924 (109-121); From Margin to Mainstream in Difficult Times, 1924-1945 (327-333); Achievement and Ambivalence, 1945-1973 (575-585); Wandering and Return: Since 1973 (979-985)

Resources for Making Web Pages; Locating Critical Articles

Week 2

T 2.3 WHAT IS JEWISH AMERICAN LITERATURE?
Hana Wirth-Nesher, "Defining the Undefinable: What is Jewish Literature" (What is Jewish Literature? 3-12)
Stephen J. Whitefield, "Definitions," In Search of American Jewish Culture (1-31)

R 2.5 Testing the Norton's Narrative: Family history presentations. Refining the Question and Addressing Commonalities. Please bring an-electronic version of your history to class with you as we will have a short workshop to help you create a web page out of the history. Family Tree Template.

Resources For Making Your Family History

Week 3

T 2.10 Case Study: Chaim Potok, The Chosen

R 2.12 The Chosen, cont.

Different Representations of the Four Sons (Children) from the Passover Haggadah

Week 4

T 2.17 The Chosen, cont.

Family Histories must be posted online by Monday 2/16/04. Family Tree Template.

Resources For Making Your Family History

Problem One: MELTING POT: THE GREAT TIDE (1881-1924)

Week 4, cont.
R 2.19 Problem 2: You have been hired to be a consultant for a a museum exhibit that combines literature and material culture about the Great Tide period, focusing on immigrants from one particular country (e.g. Russia, Poland, Greece, etc.) You will need to supply answers to the following questions: What qualities distinguish the literature and culture of American Jewry from this era? When does an immigrant become an "America"?

The Problem Staged:
Jacob Reis, How the Other Half Lives (1-16, 82-102)
Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, "In the Golden Land" (248)
Anzia Yezierska, "Children of Loneliness" (234-244)

Week 5
T 2.24 REQUIRED LIBRARY SEMINAR & WORKSHOP
Groups will meet to discuss their strategies for this section of the syllabus. The librarians will review researching strategies and tools and provide time to assist each group in finding their resources. By the end of the library session each group must post the readings they will be using for the next week and a half.

English 303 Research Guide


R 2.26 PRIMARY TEXT: GROUP 1
Readings: To be chosen by Group 1 from Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology
Due date: all members of Group 1 post assignment 2a 24 hours before class:


Week 6

T 3.2 CRITICAL ARTICLES: GROUP 2
Readings: Article to be chosen by Group 2.
Due date: all members of Group 2 post assignment 2b 24 hours before class

R 3.4 CULTURAL ARTIFACTS: GROUP 3
Readings: Cultural Artifacts posted on-line by Group 3 and articles & primary texts from previous two days Due date: all members of Group 3 post assignment 2c 24 hours before class

Sunday 3.7 PURIM!

Problem Two: ASSIMILATIONIST WOES: ACHIEVEMENT AND AMBIVALENCE (1945-1973)

Week 7
T 3.19 Problem Three: World War II has often been seen as a watershed moment in American and world culture and is used as the starting point for "postmodern" literature. For American Jews the holocaust would have deeper ramifications and would mark a paradoxical moment in time: at the same time that Germans were bent upon eliminating Jews, Americans were slowly come to accept Jews as "white folks." For many American Jews, this newfound status meant an obligation to help elimate other forms of racism in America; many young liberal Jews were involved in the civil rights movement. For others, the newfound status was precarious at best and to be well guarded, lest prejudice and oppression return. Your job is to formulate a response to the anti Semetic poem, "Hey, Jew boy..." from the perspective of two of the characters in Sinclair's the Changlings. What did it mean for Jews at this time to be "white" and Jewish? How does Sinclair's vision of being white and Jewish differ from that of other writers and thinkers of this era?


The Problem Staged:
"Hey, Jew boy..." (Strangers & Neighbors, 657; Handout)
Karen Brodkin, "How Did the Jews Become White Folks?" How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America (25-52)
Jo Sinclair, Chapters 1-7 The Changlings(1-127)


R 3.11 The Changlings, cont.
"Blacks and Jews: An Interview with Julius Lester" (Strangers & Neighbors, 669-680); "Hey, Jew boy..." (Strangers & Neighbors, 657)


3.13-3.21 SPRING BREAK!

Week 8

T 3.23 MANDATORY WEB SEMINAR
Get more Web Page Making Skills, Meet with Group to Map Out Upcoming Readings. By the end of the library session each group must post the readings they will be using for the next week and a half.

Resources for Making Web Pages; Locating Critical Articles

English 303 Research Guide


R 3.18 PRIMARY TEXTS: GROUP 2
Readings: To be chosen by Group 2 from Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology
Due date: all members of Group 2 post assignment 2a 24 hours before class

Week 9

T 3.30 CRITICAL ARTICLES: GROUP 3
Readings: Article to be chosen by Group 3:
Due date: all members of Group 3 post assignment 2b 24 hours before class

R 4.1 CULTURAL ARTIFACTS: GROUP 1
Readings: Cultural Artifacts posted on-line by Group 1
Due date: all members of Group 1 post assignment 2c 24 hours before class

Problem Three: TESHUVA: Wandering and Return: Since 1973

Week 10
T 4.6 NO CLASS--PASSOVER
Optional Reading: Allegra Goodman, "The Four Questions" (1134-1148)


R 4.8 Problem Four:
Poet Rodger Kamentz recounts how in 1989 the Dalai Lama compared the plight of the Tibetans to that of the Jews and "turned for the first time to the Jewish people for help. 'Tell me your secret,' he said, 'the secret of the Jewish spiritual survival'" (The Jew in the Lotus 2). Kamentz has his own answer to this, but other writers have suggested that the "strength of American Judaism is that American Jews are constantly testing, trying, experimenting, and innovating." (Max Dimont,The Jews in America 1978: 188). Conversely, secular writer Robert Eisenberg suggests that strictness of observance is the future of American Judaism. Eisenberg proposes, "Imagine: It is the year 2075, and the only Jews left in the United States, aside from a few old-timers, are Hasidism and other Orthodox Jews. Impossible you say? Actually, it's quite likely" (Boychiks in the Hood,1). Your job is to a formulate a response to the Dalai Lama's query, with an American bent. What is the secret of Jewish spiritual survival in the 1970s to the present?


The Problem Staged:
Robert Eisenberg, "A Map of the Hasidism: An Introduction," Boychiks in the Hood, (1-8)
Rodger Kamentz, "Introduction," The Jew in the Lotus (1-4)
Allegra Goodman, Kaaterksill Falls (Parts 1 & 2, pp. 3-133)

Week 11

T 4.13 NO CLASS--PASSOVER

R 4.15 Kaaterksill Falls, cont.
Rabbi Eliyahu Klugman, "Chapter 17: The Principle," Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (200-208)

Week 12

T 4.20 LIBRARY/WEB DAY (no readings). By the end of the library session each group must post the readings they will be using for the next week and a half.

Resources for Making Web Pages; Locating Critical Articles

English 303 Research Guide

R 4.22 PRIMARY TEXT(S): GROUP 3
Readings: To be chosen by Group 3 from Jewish American Literature: A Norton Anthology
Due date: all members of Group 3 post assignment 2a 24 hours before class

Week 13

T 4.27 CRITICAL ARTICLES: GROUP 1
Readings: Article to be chosen by Group 1
Due date: all members of Group 1 post assignment 2b 24 hours before class

R .29 CULTURAL ARTIFACTS: GROUP 2
Readings: Cultural Artifacts posted on-line by Group 2
Due date: all members of Group 2 post assignment 2c 24 hours before class

FINAL POJECTS
Monday 5.10.04 Final Projects need to be posted on your Web Pages.

Resources for Making Web Pages

 
2004 Laura Leibman Reed CollegeEnglishAmerican Studies Syllabus Yiddishkeit Student PagesResources