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Barbara Ellen Mann
Jewish Theological Seminary of America (New York, NY 10027-4649)
The Object of 20th-Century Jewish Literature: A Material History

A book-length study of the material qualities of texts and literary depictions of objects in modern Jewish literature.

My project reads 20th-century Jewish literature through the lens of material culture, analyzing the material qualities of texts, the depiction of things, and discourse about materiality during a period shaped by migration, the Shoah and social, political upheaval. Examining how transition and rupture have refashioned Jewish textuality as material culture will enrich our sense of literature's complex relation to its physical surroundings. Jewish writing emerges from a culture whose theological tradition has an ambivalent relation to embodied forms such as idols. Thus Jewish writing is an ideal forum for exploring how literature deploys objects as emblems of ideas and emotions, and how books may function as things. Treating a wide variety of genres, a material analysis of Jewish writing will sharpen our understanding of how secular culture is indebted to traditional religious forms. Moving beyond language and place, my material reading suggests new, transnational models of identity.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Comparative Literature; History, Criticism, and Theory of the Arts; Jewish Studies

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$33,600 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2016 – 12/31/2016