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The Golden Age of Jewish American Literature
(Released March 2010)

  by Ethan Goffman  


Key Citations



Literary Works



Dybbuk: In the tradition of Jewish mysticism, a hostile spirit that possessed individuals.

Golem: In the tradition of Jewish mysticism, an extremely powerful creature made of rock or clay. It would often remain inert until brought to life, perhaps by an incantation.

Magic Realism: A literary form in which seemingly realistic scenes are invaded by fantastic and supernatural events, which, however, are often treated as normal.

Modernism: A literary movement, centered in Europe but with a strong American component, that began in the late 19th century and peaked in the 20th century. It was noted for alienated protagonists, conflict between traditional society and secularism, and increasing experimentation, including stream-of-consciousness.

Naturalism: A highly realistic literary form, usually employing stark, straightforward language, often dealing with working class characters in bleak conditions with a strong element of social protest.

Postmodernism: A literary movement that began in the later half of the twentieth century marked by extreme experimentation, fragmentation, a portrayal of surface, and references to pop culture.

Shiksa: Yiddish for a non-Jewish woman, often used with a negative, slutty connotation.

Shtetl: A Jewish village in Eastern Europe generally isolated from the surrounding, non-Jewish culture. Shtetl life was at its height during the 19th century.

Yiddish: The language of East European Jews prior to the Second World War. It contained elements of German, Hebrew, Polish, and other languages and was spoken in several dialects.

Yiddishkeit: Jewishness. It can mean a traditional, often religious, way of life, but in America is often used to mean a sentimental remnant of Eastern European Jewish culture, for intance in bagels and cream cheese or klezmer music.

Zeitgeist: German for "the spirit of the times."