Third event of the Astaire Seminar Series in Jewish Studies ‘Jews, movement, migration, location’, 26 April 2017, University of St Andrews

Co-sponsored by USTC and the School of History

Venue: Old Class Library, School of History, 69 South Street, St Andrews
Time: 2-4pm

Adam Shear (University of Pittsburgh), Jews and their Books on the Move in Early Modern Europe

Emily Finer (University of St Andrews), Jewish Migration and Metamorphosis in Early Soviet Fiction

Adam Shear is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History and Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at the University of Pittsburgh where he has taught since 2001. His 2008 book The Kuzari and the Shaping of Jewish Identity, 1167-1900 (Cambridge University Press) was awarded a National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship and the Morris D. Forkosch Prize from the Journal of the History of Ideas for the best first book in intellectual history.

The early modern period in European and Mediterranean history is often seen as a period of increased mobility of people.  The rise of print is also seen as a distinctive element of early modernity.  In Jewish history, these two factors have been cited by many historians as key aspects of the early modern Jewish experience, most recently by David Ruderman in his Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History (Princeton, 2011). Although historians of migration and historians of the book have paid due diligence to the relationships between the two factors, this talk will more explicitly analyze the ways in which movement of Jewish books are linked to the mobility patterns of early modern Jews. In addition to looking at the pre-publication sharing of texts in new environments, the paper also considers the dissemination of books after publication and over time. The goal is to better understand how the history of migration is linked to the history of the book and how new tools in each subfield can complement knowledge in the other.

Emily Finer is Lecturer in Comparative Literature and Russian at the University of St Andrews where she founded and convened the new degree in Comparative Literature. She is currently working on a second monograph exploring the vast cultural reception of Charles Dickens and his works in the Russian-speaking world. This project follows her monograph on the twisty relationship between the Russian Formalist, Viktor Shklovskii and the author of Tristram Shandy, Laurence Sterne: Turning into Sterne: Viktor Shklovskii and Literary Reception (Oxford: Legenda, 2010).

For a few years after the 1917 Revolution, Russian-Jewish writers felt empowered to explore issues of identity in print. Lev Lunts, a young writer who resisted his parents’ pleas to join them in emigration, chose instead to imagine a journey west in Crossing the Border (1922). His Jewish characters employ a range of linguistic and visual disguises which are ultimately unsuccessful. In Homeland (1923), Lunts’s atheist student goes through a door under the Choral Synagogue in Petersburg only to find himself in biblical Babylon. These and the similar stories to be discussed all end with the restoration of the status quo, but their writers test the limits of comedy and satire through their use of anti-Semitic stereotypes, making peculiar demands on the contemporary reader.

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