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Notions of Otherness: Literary Essays from Abraham Cahan to Dacia Maraini

Notions of Otherness: Literary Essays from Abraham Cahan to Dacia Maraini

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Notions of Otherness: Literary Essays from Abraham Cahan to Dacia Maraini

Longueur:
157 pages
1 heure
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Apr 30, 2019
ISBN:
9781783089307
Format:
Livre

Description

Defining what one means by the notion of ‘otherness’ is no mean feat. Typing the word into JSTOR results in no fewer than 39,000 citations. One can be overwhelmed with notions of what constitutes ‘otherness’.

To a great extent, the essays in ‘Notions of Otherness’ approach specific texts (e.g., Sarraute’s ‘Tropisms’) and philosophies (e.g., Lawrence’s ‘Ranamin’) as reflective of Simmel’s notion of the Stranger whose membership within the group, described in the Spring 2010 issue of ‘Social Research’, involves both being outside it and confronting it.

The entirety of the literary texts that have been written about (Cahan, Woolf, Schulz, Lawrence, Ionesco, Duras, Wittig and Maraini) have been addressed from the perspective of being ‘outside the group’ and ‘confronting’ the group both from a sociological perspective and an aesthetic one. Challenging male authority is one example of being outside the group; challenging traditional notions of writing fiction is another aspect of being outside the group; challenging one’s own loss of culture or being forced to do so is being outside the group and advocating a fascist form of living within a democracy is yet another aspect of being outside the group. Each of these texts challenges ‘codes of otherness’ and by so doing manifest notions of otherness in a distinctly unique manner.

Éditeur:
Sortie:
Apr 30, 2019
ISBN:
9781783089307
Format:
Livre

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Notions of Otherness - Mark Axelrod-Sokolov

Notions of Otherness

Notions of Otherness

Literary Essays from Abraham Cahan to Dacia Maraini

Mark Axelrod-Sokolov

Anthem Press

An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company

www.anthempress.com

This edition first published in UK and USA 2019

by ANTHEM PRESS

75–76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK

or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK

and

244 Madison Ave #116, New York, NY 10016, USA

© Mark Axelrod-Sokolov 2019

The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

ISBN-13: 978-1-78308-928-4 (Pbk)

ISBN-10: 1-78308-928-8 (Pbk)

This title is also available as an e-book.

CONTENTS

Kind of an Introduction

1.Acculturation, Otherness and the Loss of Jewish Identity in Abraham Cahan’s The Rise of David Levinsky

2.Aesthetic Otherness in Woolf’s Mark on the Wall, Kew Gardens and Lappin & Lappinova

3.The Prose of Otherness in Bruno Schulz’s Street of Crocodiles

4.D. H. Lawrence and Ranamin: Otherness and Visions of a Fascist American Utopia

5.The Aesthetics of Otherness in Nathalie Sarraute’s Tropisms

6.The Square, The Lover and Hiroshima, Mon Amour: Fiction, Film and Duras’s Notion of the Other

7.Otherness and Sexual Alterity in Monique Wittig’s Les Guérillères

8.Mystery, Authority and the Patriarchal Voice in Dacia Maraini’s Voices

Index

KIND OF AN INTRODUCTION

Defining what one means by the notion of otherness is no mean feat. Typing the word into JSTOR results in no fewer than 39,000 citations. Where does one start? There’s Todorov’s Otherness and Taylor, Foucault, and Otherness. There’s the Other in the Writings of Heidegger and Hegel on Others and Self, not to mention the notion of Otherness in the Pratyabhijñā philosophy. One can be overwhelmed with notions of what constitutes otherness. Perhaps the closest definition I can find that reasonably relates to what I am writing is Riva Kastoryano’s Codes of Otherness, in which she alludes to Simmel: The Other has been at the core of questions raised by the social sciences in general. For Simmel, the Other, "is the Stranger who is beyond being far and near. The Stranger is an element of the group itself, not unlike the poor and sundry ‘inner enemy’—an element whose membership within the group involves both being outside it and confronting it." Interactions within and without groups follow codes, categories, and boundaries to identify the included, the excluded, the conformist, and the deviants as Outsiders, according to Howard Becker, with regard to their disobedience of juridical and political norms or to social and cultural codes (Social Research 77, no. 1, Migration Politics (spring 2010): 79–100).

To a great extent, what I’ve attempted to do in these essays is to approach specific texts (e.g., Sarraute’s Tropisms) and/or philosophies (e.g., Lawrence’s Ranamin) as reflective of Simmel’s notion of the Stranger, whose membership within the group involves both being outside it and confronting it. The entirety of the literary texts I write about (Cahan, Woolf, Schulz, Lawrence, Ionesco, Duras, Wittig, Maraini) really are written from the perspective of being outside the group and confronting the group both from a sociological perspective and/or an aesthetic one. Challenging male authority is one example of being outside the group; challenging traditional notions of writing fiction is another aspect of being outside the group; challenging one’s own loss of culture or being forced to do so is being outside the group and advocating a fascist form of living within a democracy is yet another aspect of being outside the group. Each of these texts challenges codes of otherness and by so doing manifests notions of otherness in a distinctly unique manner.

Chapter 1

ACCULTURATION, OTHERNESS AND THE LOSS OF JEWISH IDENTITY IN ABRAHAM CAHAN’S THE RISE OF DAVID LEVINSKY

Of all the tribes, sects and cultures in the world, perhaps no single group of humans has suffered more from the onslaught of moral inequities and physical persecutions than have the Jews. In spite of, or because of, those humanitarian injustices, the Jewish people have survived; in the process of surviving, however, whether Russian pogroms or Nazi genocide, the Jewish people have slowly been losing what had distinguished them as being different: their identity. It is not the identity that others have recognized as being Jewish that is in jeopardy, but the identity that Jews, especially American Jews, have recognized as being Jewish. In the process of this historical evolution, one particular period seems to be significant: 1880–1920. In the process of portraying the genesis of this evolution and in contributing it to us, one particular writer presents himself as significant: Abraham Cahan.

The word contribute has been interpreted in numerous ways. In some cases, it has been defined as to add to, and in others as to bring together; however, the origin of the word is Latin and can best be defined as to bestow, and nowhere is that definition more applicable in a discussion of great Jewish contributions to American society than in the life and literature of Cahan, especially his novel The Rise of David Levinsky. The novel is a significant point of departure in understanding the fabric of the Jewish-American immigrant experience, its evolution, notions of otherness and the concomitant assimilation of a people into a place unlike its own. Both its literary and sociohistorical content establish it as a seminal influence in American letters.

Cahan was Russian born and immigrated to the United States in 1882 at the age of 22. Born near the small town of Vilna, Cahan’s grandfather was a rabbi and his father a schoolteacher. Possibly because of those influences, Cahan was an imaginative and inquisitive student who was more apt to question the existing order of things than to capitulate to it. Upon leaving the Vilna Teacher’s Institute in 1881, Cahan utilized those critical faculties and became involved in the more radical political movement of that era, namely Marxism. By the time he had reached America, Cahan was lecturing on Marxist philosophy to Jewish workers. Since his socialist philosophy worked coterminously with the newly organized Jewish labor movement of the late nineteenth century, he not only became influential politically but also established himself as a Yiddish journalist, a position that eventually led to a career in creative writing.

By 1886, Cahan was contributing short journalistic pieces to both the short-lived labor weekly The New Era, as well as to a Jewish-Russian weekly called Russky Yevrey. Though the former pieces were devoted almost exclusively to the New York City labor movement, the latter ones dealt with what would eventually become a Cahanian motif: immigrant life. In 1897, Cahan founded New York’s Jewish Daily Forward, a Yiddish periodical that he edited from 1903 until his death in 1951, and that offered him a unique opportunity to deal with the varieties of Jewish experience that were appearing on New York’s burgeoning East Side. What was invaluable about his editorial experience was that it enabled him to mediate between various socioethnological levels: Yiddish, Jewish, Russian, Ukrainian, American. Cahan’s ability to interpenetrate those various cultures and to synthesize from them certain cultural and ethnological values made Cahan’s contribution to American literature and social history significant. As a Russian-Jewish-American writer privy to those cultural manifestations, Cahan, more than any other writer before him, laid the foundations for one of the major themes in Jewish-American writing of the twentieth century: the problems inherent in cultural readjustment, that is, acculturation.

Contemporary North American Jewish writers such as Saul Bellow, Alfred Kazin, Bernard Malamud, Phillip Roth, I. B. Singer and Mordecai Richler are all, in some way, indebted to Cahan for bestowing upon them and upon Jewish-American letters an approach to the difficulties of harmonizing the dualities of Jewish Europeanism and Jewish Americanism. Though Cahan’s early work took the form of short stories, he established himself as a serious novelist in his three novels in English: Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto (1896); The White Terror and the Red (1905); and his masterpiece, The Rise of David Levinsky (1917). What clearly distinguishes Cahan’s early work as a seminal influence in the Jewish literature to come was his marvelous adaptation of the American-Jewish experience as expressed in the dialect of his immigrant characters. Cahan invigorates his characters by making them speak in a crude, idiomatic fashion that exposes the vulgarizing effect that America has had on them. Cahan’s use of such European Judeo-American dialects and his ability to poeticize the English that is spoken through the Yiddish dialect predates such use in the works of Malamud and Singer. Cahan’s work reflects that change in Jewish perceptions to the world around them, specifically through the loss of language. As the texture of Cahan’s fiction changed, so did the rhetoric of his characters. What was evolving in Cahan’s work was the slow, but determinate, assimilation of his characters into American society as expressed in their use of language. This immigration to American acculturation manifested itself most poignantly in The Rise of David Levinsky, since it is with that novel the language expresses most fully the complete, or nearly complete, assimilation of the characters into American society and, concomitantly, their gradual loss of their most important source of identity: their native tongue.

What Cahan presented in a way not presented before was a unique narrative treatment of a slowly evolving social, ethnic and linguistic process that transformed the European Jew, with all his cultural, ritualistic and mystical sensibilities, into an American Jew devoid of any traditionally based culture. This final evolution was expressed most clearly in Levinsky, the publication of which was probably the single most influential Jewish-American novel of its time. John Higham, in his preface to a 1960 edition of the novel,

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