By Emily Miller Budick
In an try to lend a extra nuanced ear to the continued discussion among African and Jewish american citizens, Emily Budick examines the works of various writers, critics, and lecturers from the Fifties in the course of the Nineteen Eighties. This learn files conversations either particular, equivalent to essays and letters, and oblique, akin to the fiction of Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Alice Walker, Cynthia Ozick, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin. the aim is to appreciate how this discussion has engendered misperceptions and misunderstandings, and the way blacks and Jews in the United States have either sought and resisted assimilation.
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Extra info for Blacks and Jews in Literary Conversation
And this is at least one aspect of what Ellison is getting at in Howe's discussion of Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison. It is what he means, in part, by Howe's Olympian tone. Even Howe's refusal to engage directly the potentially anti-Semitic implication of Ellison's comments represents a form of condescension on Howe's part: he is above racial or religious engagement, but he allows Ellison the liberty, as a person in a presumably lesser cultural position, to engage in vindictive retort. " The quotation can be understood to represent Lear's genuine uncertainty as to who he is.
But in speaking diis way - and this is both the great insight of Ellison's novel and the source of its tremendous artistic power - he imitates nothing so much as the way in which American culture, indeed all culture, speaks to itself. Cultural speaking, Ellison knows, is always conducted with absolute casualness and disregard (such as Howe JAMES BALDWIN AND CYNTHIA OZICK 35 exhibits) for having to identify who (ethnically, religiously, racially) is doing the speaking. As Baldwin puts it in 'The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American," again anticipating what have become commonplaces of our literary-critical vocabulary, "every society is really governed by hidden laws, by unspoken but profound assumptions on the part of the people, and ours is no exception.
I feel uncomfortable whenever I discover Jewish intellectuals writing as though they were guilty of enslaving my grandparents, or as though the Jews were responsible for the system of segregation. Not only do they have enough troubles of their own, as the saying goes, but Negroes know this only too well. " Speaking personally... I would like to see the more positive distinctions between whites and Jewish Americans maintained. Not only does it make for a necessary bit of historical and social clarity,.
Blacks and Jews in Literary Conversation by Emily Miller Budick