L’America come seconda Yavneh? Cynthia Ozick e la rinascenza ebraica statunitense degli anni Settanta del Novecento
The present essay focuses on a new phase in the evolution of Jewish-American writing which characterized the late 1960s and the 1970s, an era in which the then-current secular, humanist outlook was gradually abandoned in favor of an engagement with particularistic aspects of Judaism, above all religious issues. As I argue, Cynthia Ozick played a leading role as a theorizer and spokesperson of this literary phenomenon. In a series of insightful essays published in the early 1970s, above all the programmatic piece “Towards a New Yiddish,” she, in fact, appealed to her fellow Jewish writers for a literary production engaging with distinctly Jewish theological paradigms and categories. Such a “tribal,” self-referential perspective was, in her view, a necessary measure to ensure the survival of the Jewish tradition in the United States, a tradition which had been constantly threatened by the pressures of secularism. Her reflections marked the beginnings of what later developed into the so-called “third act” of Jewish-American literature of the 1980s and 1990s, a rich and lively movement which refuted Irving Howe’s gloomy 1977 forecast that Jewish literature was inevitably destined to dissolve into the American literary mainstream.
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