home Menasseh ben Israel
home Menasseh ben Israel


Thu 18-01-2018
Amsterdam Yiddish Symposium 12

Yiddish Modernism

From the late 19th century, radical changes in European society have given rise to modernist movements in the arts and philosophy. Although Yiddish is often associated with religion, conservatism and folksiness, Yiddish authors and artists have been part of the cutting edge of Western culture.

Three scholars of Yiddish literature and culture will cast a light on Yiddish modernist literature and culture during this symposium. Karolina Szymaniak traces the national and transnational networks of Yiddish poets from Eastern Europe who were set adrift after the First World War and had to redefine their cultural and literary positions in a changed world. Allison Schachter discusses Modernist literature written by women, focusing on the important but little-known Yiddish poet and story writer Fradel Shtok. Efrat Gal-Ed will offer an analysis of a poem by Itzik Manger in which he uses traditional and religious elements to realize his modernist poetics.

The Menasseh ben Israel Institute, in cooperation with the Abteilung für Jiddische Kultur, Sprache und Literatur at the Heinrich Heine Universität, Düsseldorf, organizes the twelfth Amsterdam Yiddish Symposium. with the following lectures, which will all be held in English:

Karolina Szymaniak (Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw)
Yiddish Modernists and the Dynamics of Polish-Yiddish Literary Contacts

Allison Schachter (Vanderbilt University)
Fradel Shtok, Madame Bovary, and the Gender of Jewish Modernism

Efrat Gal-Ed (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf)
In a heylikn mitvokh: On Itzik Manger’s Modernist Moves

Date:                  Thursdsy, January 18, 2018, 1-5:30 PM
:                 Bushuis, Kloveniersburgwal 48, Amsterdam
Price:                  € 10,--; for Friends of the institute € 5.-
Registration:        via email, by phone 020-5310325 or webform.

Karolina Szymaniak
is Assistant Professor at the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw. She is the author of Agent of the Eternal Idea: The Changing Aesthetics of Debora Vogel (2006, in Polish), editor of Rachel Auerbach. Letters from the Warsaw Ghetto (2015, in Polish) and co-editor, with Andrij Bojarov and PaweÅ� Polit, of Montages. Debora Vogel and The New City Legend (2017, in Polish). She was editor-in-chief of Cwiszn (Tsvishn), a Polish language quarterly devoted to Yiddish arts and literature.

Yiddish Modernists and the Dynamics of Polish-Yiddish Literary ContactsAfter the First World War – with the disintegration of the imperial order and the establishment of the new republics in East Central Europe, including the Polish Republic – the geography and the cultural and political situation of Yiddish culture and the nature of Yiddish-Polish cultural and literary relations changed dramatically. Yiddish public intellectuals had to redefine and negotiate their position anew in this new cultural order. Literature, literary criticism and history became important sites for these negotiations. Dr. Szymaniak will focus on how these negotiations were reflected in the poetics of different modernists across the diaspora, especially on three case studies: the New York-based N.B. Minkoff, Avrom Sutzkever from Vilna and Arn Tsaytlin, who was based in Warsaw and New York). 


Allison Schachter is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and English and director of the Program in Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Schachter specializes in modern Jewish literature and culture. Her research focuses on Jewish writers’ responses to the historical transformations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as the rise of nationalism, the forces of secularization, and the upheaval of traditional gender roles. Trained in comparative literature, her research encompasses Hebrew, Yiddish, English, and French literature. She is the author of Diasporic Modernisms: Hebrew and Yiddish Literature in the Twentieth Century (2012).

Fradel Shtok, Madame Bovary, and the Gender of Jewish Modernism
Celebrated primarily as the poet who wrote the first sonnet in Yiddish, Fradel Shtok was also a masterful modernist prose artist. She published a single collection of short fiction in 1919 that was dismissed by some critics for a style more akin to Flaubert than to Sholem Aleichem. The lore about Shtok is that traumatized by negative reviews, she repudiated Yiddish, and died in an asylum. However, this was not true: she continued to write in Yiddish, and died in LA years after news of her tragic death. Why was the literary establishment so quick to “kill her off”?  This talk examines Shtok’s modernist feminist aesthetic, offering a revised account of Yiddish modernism that acknowledges the centrality of woman to the modernist revolution and addresses their exclusion from the central narratives of that revolution. 


Efrat Gal-Ed is Professor of Yiddish Studies at Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf. She is the author of Das Buch der jüdischen Jahresfeste (2001) and Niemandssprache. Itzik Manger – ein europäischer Dichter (2016), she is also the editor and translator of Itzik Manger: Dunkelgold. Gedichte. Jiddisch und deutsch (2004, 2nd ed. 2016) and co-editor of Leket: Yiddish Studies Today (2012).

In a heylikn mitvokh: On Itzik Manger’s Modernist Moves
At his farewell party in Warsaw in late April 1930, Itzik Manger read two newly written ballads. Rated as “highly exceptional” by the critic N. Meisel in the Literarishe bleter, one of them was titled “The Ballad of the Rabbi of Podul-Iloaiei”. It depicts the dramatic transformation of the Rabbi’s religious experience in his relationship to God. Drawing on Jewish local history and East European mystical traditions, Manger creates a pious though subversive figure that embodies the possibility of a personal and authentic relationship with the divine as an immediate interlocutor. The poet, a mere 28 years old, presents his modernist (almost postmodernist) moves, merging subversively transformed quotations of Jewish and non-Jewish traditions with particles of factual reality and motifs of world literature into a new poetic synthesis. Manger’s use of intertextual procedures reinterprets and reconfigures the components from his diverse sources in accord with his artistic concept: to stage rewritten local Jewish motifs and materials as a means of making modernist Yiddish poetry.

previous page