ENGL 3677 Jewish-American Literature


Jessica Bornstein
Email:  Jessica.Bornstein@Colorado.EDU


Jewish American Literature: A Migration from the Shtetl to the Suburbs

While negotiating a ceasefire in the Middle East, American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger told Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir that he was an American first, Secretary of State second, and then a Jew, in that order. Meir jokingly reminded him that in Hebrew we read from right to left. But Kissinger’s assertion leaves us with a pressing question, are the identifications “American” and “Jew” mutually exclusive? In this course we will look at how different American Jewish authors struggle with this dual identification in their work. In doing so, we will cultivate our own definitions of both terms, American and Jew, as well as how the two work to delineate one another. We will analyze traces of the diaspora as Jewish-American authors establish their place in the American literary canon by incorporating elements of Jewish culture such as family, faith, and struggle with the emerging conception of the American Dream. We will see the evolution of American Jewry from immigrant to presidential candidate, from the Shtetl to the Suburbs.


This course introduces students to Jewish American literature and culture, tracking the diaspora from the Shtetl to the suburbs. To do so, the course teaches students textual analysis (the careful deconstruction of a text into its component parts—literary techniques, narrative voice, plot devices, textual history, etc.—in order to come to a greater understanding of the whole) and close reading (a type of analysis that focuses on the author’s structure, form, and diction in order to extrapolate a theory of the text). We will work on analytical writing in both casual (discussion posts) and formal settings (formal papers), specifically focusing on forming a concise and articulate critical voice.


Aleichem, Sholem. Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son.  ISBN 978-0143105602

Malamud, Bernard. The Magic Barrel: Stories. ISBN 978-0374525866

Ozick, Cynthia. The Shawl. ISBN 978-0679729266

Roth, Philip. Goodbye, Columbus. ISBN 978-0679748267


Reader Response Journals (8): 15%

Discussions (8): 15%

Weekly Reading Quizzes: 15%

Final Exam: 15%

2 Papers: 40%

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University of Colorado Boulder
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Boulder, Colorado