In Search of Identity and Spirituality in the Fiction of American Jewish Female Authors at the Turn of the 21st Century
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
Chapter 3 American Jewish Women’s Quest for Identity and Spirituality in the Contemporary Writings of American Jewish Female Authors
The literary analyses included in Chapter 3 aim at the exploration of the multifaceted nature of American Jewish female identity and spirituality within Judaism as reflected in the selected fiction by contemporary American Jewish women writers, representatives of the third generation whose works were published between 1980 and 2005. What yields direct and profound insight into a complicated process of female identity formation is the investigation of how American Jewish female characters negotiate the intersection between Orthodox Judaism, feminism and secularism in their lives at the turn of the twenty-first century. Consecutive sections of Chapter 3 will focus on the presentation and examination of the female protagonists’ search for identity as reflected in the selected novels by Anne Roiphe, Nessa Rapoport, Rebecca Goldstein, Pearl Abraham, Allegra Goodman and Tova Mirvis. 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 (as well as the authors’ attitudes) towards the ‘alluring’ social movements of the outside world, such as feminism and secularism. They include embracing Orthodox Judaism as a patriarchal tradition and living within “the joy of limits,” to borrow Wisse’s expression (Allegra Goodman’s Kaaterskill Falls (1998)); staying within Orthodox Judaism but trying to transform it from within, in a feminist fashion (Pearl Abraham’s The Romance Reader (1995), Tova Mirvis’ The Ladies Auxiliary (1999), and Nessa Rapoport’s Preparing for Sabbath (1981)); living between and trying to make the most of the two...
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