Passing Fancies in Jewish American Literature and Culture
Published by: Indiana University Press
In Passing Fancies in Jewish American Literature and Culture Judith Ruderman takes on the fraught question of who passes for Jewish in American literature and culture. In today's contemporary political climate, religious and racial identities are being reconceived as responses to culture and environment, rather than essential qualities. Many Jews continue to hold conflicting ideas about their identity—seeking, on the one hand, deep engagement with Jewish history and the experiences of the Jewish people, while holding steadfastly, on the other hand, to the understanding that identity is fluid and multivalent. Looking at a carefully chosen set of texts from American literature, Ruderman elaborates on the strategies Jews have used to "pass" from the late 19th century to the present—nose jobs, renaming, clothing changes, religious and racial reclassification, and even playing baseball. While traversing racial and religious identities has always been a feature of America's nation of immigrants, Ruderman shows how the complexities of identity formation and deformation are critically relevant during this important cultural moment.
Chapter One: Jews and Their Complex Identities: "O Brave New World, That has Such People In't!"
Chapter Two: The "Jewish Nose" and the Nose Job in Nathan Englander's The Ministry of Special Cases: "The Most Unkindest Cut of All"
Chapter Three: Jewish American Women and the Nose Job: "God Hath Given You One
Face, and You Make Yourself Another"
Chapter Four: Renaming as a Strategy for Passing in Thyra Samter Winslow's "A Cycle of Manhattan": "A Ros[s] by Any Other Name"
Chapter Five: Renaming and Reclaiming: "To Thine Own Self be True"
Chapter Six: Jews and Gentiles Becoming the Other: "Neither a Borrower nor a Lender be"
Chapter Seven: Racial Crossings Between Jews and Blacks: "That You Might See Your Shadow"
Chapter Eight: The Use of Clothing in Passing Narratives: "The Fashion Wears out More Apparel than the Man"
Chapter Nine: In Search of an "Authentic" Jewish American Identity: "Who is it Who Can Tell me Who I am?"
The recent attacks on minority identities have revived older, anti-Semitic stereotypes. The concomitant construction of 'white' identity (a construction which excludes Jews) and its alliance with political power makes Judith Ruderman's work particularly relevant. Until recently, we might have assumed that the place of Jews in American society was resolved, but I dare say this is no longer the case.~Diane Sasson, author of Yearning for the New Age: Laura Holloway-Langford and Late Victorian Spirituality