CFP: Postwar Jewish Literatures (Belgium) (1/31/06; 11/6/06-11/7/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Philippe Codde
contact email:

*Response, Remembrance, Representation:
A Dialogue between Postwar Jewish Literatures*
Universities of Antwerp and Ghent, 6-7 November 2006

Papers are invited for a two-day comparative literature conference on
postwar Jewish writing in North America and Western Europe.

Perhaps more than any other ethnic or religious group in the US, Jewish
authors have shaped the face of 20th century American literature. The
rich tradition of Jewish American writing ranges from the more
peripheral immigrant novels written by Abraham Cahan, Mary Antin, Anzia
Yezierska, and Henry Roth to the postwar novels by Saul Bellow, Bernard
Malamud, and Philip Roth which catapulted Jewish writing into the center
of the American literary system. By the late 1970s, however, Irving Howe
famously predicted the demise of the Jewish American novel due to a
depletion of the cultural material and the memories from which it
originally sprang. While the recent deaths of Arthur Miller and Saul
Bellow have indeed ended an era, new generations of gifted and promising
Jewish novelists are clearly proving Howe wrong. The thematic diversity
in the work of writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss,
Pearl Abraham, Michael Chabon, David Mamet, Art Spiegelman, Allegra
Goodman, Thane Rosenbaum, Melvin Jules Bukiet, and many others, makes
these authors perhaps less easily identifiable as a literary group, but
it does suggest that the Jewish novel in America is not likely to suffer
from anemia anytime in the near future.

Similarly, and more surprisingly, the revitalization of Jewish culture
in Europe is one of its more remarkable cultural developments in recent
years. In the first years after the end of World War II, no one could
foresee that European Jewry would recover so rapidly and vigorously from
the trauma and the losses caused by the Shoah. And yet, just a quarter
century later, Jewish culture in countries such as France, Germany,
Austria, Italy, England, Hungary, and even Poland began to prosper
again. Since 1980, an ever-growing number of Jewish writers have been
contributing to the reemergence of an extremely lively and heterogeneous
Jewish literary culture in the New Europe. This literature captures the
main challenges confronting the post-Shoah generations of Europe: the
desire to commemorate the lives of those who were killed in the camps;
the need to address the ruptures in Jewish life and culture; and the
determination to face the attractions and limitations of reclaiming a
Jewish identity impervious to assimilation and to threats of
anti-Semitism. European contributors to Jewish writing include, for
example, Jessica Durlacher, Arnon Grunberg, Marcel Möring, Robert
Schindel, Doron Rabinovici, Robert Menasse, Henry Raczymow, Patrick
Modiano, Myrian Anissimov, Jonathan Wilson, Julia Pascal, William
Sutcliffe, Clara Sereni, and Angela Bianchini.

The present conference seeks to initiate a transcontinental dialogue
between these Western European and North American Jewish literatures. We
invite contributions to any of the four following sessions on Jewish
literature after the Second World War:

1. Literature, Language, and Memory

Memory has always been an essential part in the construction of Jewish
identity. Which historical events are remembered / commemorated in
Jewish literature and how are they represented linguistically? Which
genres ([graphic] novels, plays, poetry, [fake] memoirs, …) or modes of
writing (realist, postmodernist, …) are used for this representation? Do
Jewish literatures arising within different political, social, cultural
contexts deal differently with the Shoah? What are the assets or dangers
/ liabilities of literary representation when compared to
historiography? To what extent is Jewish literature an act of testimony
and witnessing? What, if any, is the relation between literary
remembrance and Jewish identity? What is the position of Jewish
literature from a specific country in the context of that country’s
established literary canon? Is it central or is it produced in the
margins of the literary environment?

2. Gender and Sexuality

To what extent are alternative social and sexual identities thematized
in postwar Jewish literature? How are women authors positioning
themselves towards a rather phallocentric Jewish tradition in the wake
of feminism? How has the emergence of so many Jewish women writers
changed the nature of Jewish literature? Has men’s writing changed too
from the age of bellowmalamudroth? Are there elements suggesting that a
“queering” of Jewish literature has taken place?

3. Religion and Ethics

Religion has traditionally played a considerable role in Jewish writing.
Is this still the case today or do authors seek alternative sources for
ethics and morality? In other words, is Judaism still an issue in these
contemporary literatures or is Jewishness largely redefined in secular
terms? If so, which philosophers or philosophical systems are/have been
influential for postwar Jewish literature? In how far does a
specifically Jewish ethics appear in the different Jewish literatures
today? Are there signs of a fairly recent religious revival in Jewish
literature? How do writers present religious and ethnic elements in
their fiction? For example, do they address themselves to the reader and
provide explanations for the outsider, or do they consider the reader to
be familiar with things Jewish?

4. Representations of Israel, Zionism, and Anti-Semitism

What are the North American and Western European literary responses to
Israel and Zionism? Does contemporary Jewish literature present the
tensions between a Zionist and a Diasporic position? Is Israel in any
way related to Jewish identity in literary representations? Is
anti-Semitism still (or again) a significant thematic issue in Jewish
literature? Is anti-Semitism in European Jewish literatures represented
differently than it is in Jewish American literature? Is there a
discourse about the notions of home, homelessness and exile in
contemporary Jewish literature? Is there an opposition between the
Jewish minority and the majority of the host country, or are the
concepts of minority/majority and insider/outsider questioned?

*We particularly encourage contributions that either address a broad
section of one national literature, or approaches to Jewish writing that
are already comparative and transnational in nature. Papers dealing with
only one work or author are discouraged.*

Please e-mail a brief CV and an abstract of no more than 250 words by
January 31, 2006 to _Philippe.Codde_at_ugent.be_ or _Bart.Lievens_at_ugent.be_

For potential participants who do not wish or are unable to submit a
traditional paper, we offer the opportunity to present a poster during
the conference. With this initiative, we would especially like to
encourage young scholars or graduate students to present their (current
or future) research in this way. It will give them a unique opportunity
to gather valuable feedback and constructive comments from authorities
from various fields within the domain of Jewish literature.
The posters will be presented on the second conference day during lunch
and coffee breaks. After the last traditional paper there will be an
additional, informal one-hour session, in which participants who present
a poster can be asked to elaborate on their specific topic.

Participants are asked to bring their own poster. Posters should be A0
size: Width: 84.1cm or 33.11"
Height: 118.9cm or 46.81". Information that certainly should be
mentioned on the poster: name, status, institution, title of research,
email, phone- and fax number, summary and outline of the project/research…
For more information on the poster session, please contact:

The organizing committee,
Gert Buelens
Philippe Codde
Bart Keunen
Bart Lievens
Vivian Liska
Kristiaan Versluys

Dr. Philippe Codde
Ghent University
General and Comparative Literature
Rozier 44
B - 9000 Ghent

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Received on Fri Dec 09 2005 - 15:23:15 EST

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