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In Search of Identity and Spirituality in the Fiction of American Jewish Female Authors at the Turn of the 21st Century

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Dorota Mihulka

The book discusses the issue of religiosity in the context of American Jewish literature, emphasizing the significance of Judaism as an indispensable element in the formation of American Jewish female identity. The empirical part of the book is devoted to a critical comprehensive analysis of selected fiction by contemporary American Jewish female writers, representatives of the third generation, whose works were published between 1980–2005. The literary analyses of the selected narratives reveal a strong connection between the identity of American Jewish women and Judaism, and the simultaneous need to modify it in the face of socio-political transformations occurring in the American society at the turn of the twenty-first century

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Chapter 2 American Jewish Women’s Writing

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2.1 Defining American Jewish Literature

I begin Chapter 2 by attempting to define American Jewish literature, and then move on to provide an in-depth overview of literature produced by American Jewish female writers in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, paying special attention to the new and recurring themes and motifs in their works. The final section of this chapter is devoted to the presentation and a brief discussion of the literary works of the major American Jewish female authors, who got published at the turn of the twenty-first century (between 1980 and 2005). It is this group of contemporary American Jewish women writers, representatives of the younger generation, and their works that are of particular interest to me. A critical comprehensive analysis of a selection of their fiction will be conducted in the following chapter, focusing on female characters’ search for identity. The various outcomes of the heroines’ struggle to find a viable identity are directly dependent on the level of their immersion in Judaism, and indirectly on their attitudes towards the ‘alluring’ social movements of the outside world, such as feminism and secularism.

Any discussion about American Jewish literature will inevitably entail an attempt at offering answers to important questions such as: ‘What is American Jewish literature?’ or to be more specific, ‘What are the features of a literary work that render it distinctly Jewish?’ Any single definition of what constitutes American Jewish literature is, however, extremely difficult to provide...

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