Cynthia Ozick and the Art of Nonfiction

deadline for submissions: 
June 15, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Studies in American Jewish Literature
contact email: 

For a special issue of Studies in American Jewish Literature on “Cynthia Ozick and the Art of Nonfiction,” guest editors Michèle Mendelssohn (Oxford) and Charlie Tyson (Harvard) invite proposals on Cynthia Ozick’s essays and criticism. Given the critical turn towards the essay form, the special issue will examine particularly themes that overlap in her essays and fiction, among them memory, cultural transmission, canon formation, style, influence, and the state of Jewish-American literature and culture. The current prestige of the essay form and “essayistic” fiction — developed most recently by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Ben Lerner and Rachel Cusk, among others — prompts us to re-assess Ozick’s importance as a novelist-critic and her place as the elder stateswoman of American letters. What lessons does this 93-year-old master provide? Beginning with her first-person 1974 essay “All the World Wants the Jews Dead”, her formidable career in nonfiction has spanned nearly half a century of stylish audacity, indignation, and insight. We welcome proposals that unlock new perspectives on the state of the essayist’s art and look through the lens of Ozick’s seven essay collections to reveal fresh angles on her distinguished, multi-generic work (poetry, novels, short stories, drama, translation).


We are interested in articles that consider the following topics:

  • The first-person vs. the third-person point of view
  • Beginnings, middles, endings: the younger essayist vs. the mature critic
  • The essay as a pedagogical form; the essay and scholarship
  • Confession, memoir, autobiography, and the essay
  • The essay and practices of Jewish thought, study, and commentary
  • Late style
  • The tension between the essayist and the critic; the disclosure of personality through essay and criticism
  • The influence of Henry James
  • The novelist-critic / practitioner-critic as professional identity; the critic as artist
  • Politics and Ozick’s turn to conservatism
  • The changing fortunes of American Jewish literature; Ozick and the American Jewish canon
  • Ozick as translator and promoter of Yiddish
  • Never forget? Who are the writers we remember?: Ozick & cultural transmission, heritage, antiquarianism (e.g. Antiquities)
  • Ozick and “making it”: the brutality of canon competition
  • Ozick and the archive (Yale has recently acquired Ozick’s papers, which will be processed by spring 2023)

To take this forward send your argument-driven proposal (500 words) to both Charlie Tyson ( and Michèle Mendelssohn ( by June 15, 2022. Include mention of at least three secondary texts or works of criticism that will inform your article. Complete essays of 5,000 words will be due on February 15, 2023.