Edited By Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich and Jacek Partyka
Temptations of Non-Jewish Lifestyle in Allegra Goodman’s and Pearl Abraham’s Novels
This paper juxtaposes and analyses Allegra Goodman’s Kaaterskill Falls (1998) and Pearl Abraham’s The Romance Reader (1995), two contemporary novels written by representatives of third-generation Jewish American female writers. One of the central issues addressed in the books is the problem of American and Jewish identities in the late 20th century, as well as the exploration of tensions and conflicts between Orthodox Judaism and contemporary American secularism. Another important preoccupation of Goodman’s and Abraham’s fiction is the return of contemporary Jewish women to Jewish religious practice, spirituality and communal life. In her autobiographical article “Writing Jewish Fiction In and Out of the Multicultural Context”, which can also in part be regarded as a literary manifesto for many of the third-generation Jewish American writers, Allegra Goodman proclaimed that “Jewish American writers must recapture the spiritual and the religious dimension of Judaism” (“Writing” 273) in order to revive and sustain it. In much of their fiction, and especially in their novels, Kaaterskill Falls and The Romance Reader, Allegra Goodman and Pearl Abraham have succeeded in achieving that purpose.
Even more specifically, the aim of this paper is to discuss the position of women in Jewish Orthodoxy as depicted in Kaaterskill Falls and The Romance Reader, as well as to present the various outcomes of the characters’ attempts at negotiating the sacred and the secular in their lives. In both books, the secular refers not only to non-religious, but also, to some extent, non-Jewish because it stems from the...
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