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The Impossible JewIdentity and the Reconstruction of Jewish American Literary History$
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Benjamin Schreier

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479868681

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479868681.001.0001

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Against the Dialectic of Nation

Against the Dialectic of Nation

Abraham Cahan and Desire’s Spectral Jew

(p.69) 2 Against the Dialectic of Nation
The Impossible Jew

Benjamin Schreier

NYU Press

This chapter articulates a literary historical legitimation for critiquing the legibility and circulation of Jewish categoricalness. Through a close reading of Abraham Cahan's novella “The Imported Bridegroom,” it envisions an identity-based literary critical practice that seeks its authorization from a future of identification about which it remains uncertain. It shows how Cahan's text undermines a certain kind of literary history that expects to find in Jewish American literature the secure representation of a Jewish American subject it wants to recognize, while also illuminating a path toward an alternate literary history, a counterdiscourse to the dialectical conservation of a Jewish identity anchored in the past. The chapter proposes a “Zionist” scholarly desire for self-evidence as a way of marking the pernicious historicist tendency to think about Jewishness in statist terms.

Keywords:   novella, Jewish categoricalness, Abraham Cahan, The Imported Bridegroom, Jewish American literature, Jewish identity, self-evidence, Jewishness

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