Exiles on Main Street

Exiles on Main Street

Jewish American Writers and American Literary Culture
Julian Levinson
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 07/02/2008
Format: Hardback 9 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-35081-7
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Winner, 2008 National Jewish Book Awards, American Jewish Studies category

How have Jews reshaped their identities as Jews in the face of the radical newness called America? Julian Levinson explores the ways in which exposure to American literary culture—in particular the visionary tradition identified with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman—led American Jewish writers to a new understanding of themselves as Jews. Discussing the lives and work of writers such as Emma Lazarus, Mary Antin, Ludwig Lewisohn, Waldo Frank, Anzia Yezierska, I. J. Schwartz, Alfred Kazin, and Irving Howe, Levinson concludes that their interaction with American culture led them to improvise new and meaningful ways of being Jewish. In contrast to the often expressed view that the diaspora experience leads to assimilation, Exiles on Main Street traces an arc of return to Jewish identification and describes a vital and creative Jewish American literary culture.

Author Bio

Julian Levinson is the Samuel Shetzer Professor of American Jewish Studies and Associate Professor of English Language and Literature at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


“Exiles on Main Street traces an arc of return to Jewish identification by exploring the ways in which exposure to American literary culture led American Jewish writers to a new understanding of themselves as Jews.”

“An entirely original and absorbing piece of scholarship and historical reconstruction [that] engages the Jewish—American literary canon and redefines it. . . . An excellent, pioneering book.”
 — Mark Shechner, author of After the Revolution

“. . . Exiles on Main Street is an original contribution to the continuing story of the creative encounter between Jewish writers and America.Summer 2009”
 — Jewish Book World

“Levinson's well-researched book makes a significant contribution to studies of Jewish American Literature and Jewish Cultural continuity.2007”
 — S.L. Kremer, Choice Reviews Online

“. . . a standout work in the field of American Jewish Literature . . . Levinson is well-attuned to the critical trends and thinking that are prevalent in the world of literary scholarship and applies them to the book's selected authors and texts in a way that is fresh and thoughtful. . . December 12, 2008”
 — Shana Rosenblatt Mauer, Jerusalem Post

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Table of Contents



Part 1. Breathing Free in the New World: Transcendentalism and the Jewish Soul
1. Songs of a Semite: Emma Lazarus and the Muse of History
2. Ecstasies of the Credulous: Mary Antin and the Spirit of the Shtetl

Part 2. Battling the Nativists: Mystics, Prophets, and Rebels in Interwar America
3. "Pilgrim to a Forgotten Shrine": Ludwig Lewisohn and the Recovery of the Inner Jew
4. Modernist Flasks, Jewish Wine: Waldo Frank and the Immanence of God
5. Cinderella's Dybbuk: Anzia Yezierska as the Voice of Generations

Part 3. Yiddish Interlude
6. From Heine to Whitman: The Yiddish Poets Come to America

Part 4. "Orating in New Yorkese": The Languages of Jewishness in Postwar America
7. "My Private Orthodoxy": Alfred Kazin's Romantic Judaism
8. The Jewish Writer Flies at Twilight: Irving Howe and the Recovery of Yiddishkayt



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