From the 1922 silent film Hungry Hearts through the first "talkie," The Jazz Singer, produced in 1927, and beyond Schindler's List, Jewish characters have confronted the problems of their Jewishness on the silver screen for a general American audience. Alongside this Hollywood tradition of Jewish film, Yiddish film blossomed from independent producers between 1911 and 1939, and interpreted literary masterpieces, from Shakespeare's King Lear to Sholem Aleichem's "Tevye the Dairyman," primarily for an immigrant, urban, Jewish audience.
In this course, we will study six or seven films and their literary sources (in fiction and drama), focusing on English- language and Yiddish films within the framework of three problems of interpretation: a) the different ways we "read" literature and film, b) the various ways that the media of fiction, drama, and film "translate" Jewish culture, and c) how these translations of Jewish culture affect and are affected by their implied audience.
We will consider the themes of the Old World shtetl, immigration, and Americanization, the religious and the secular, and anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. We will examine legend, folklore, and magic; pastoral romance; social satire; and the idea of the classic.
The course films will probably include some of the following: East and West (1922), Hungry Hearts (1922), The Jazz Singer (1927), Uncle Moses (1932), The Dybbuk (1937), Tevye (1939), Mirele Efros (1939), a film from the forties and one from the fifties, to be determined, Funny Girl (1968), Goodbye, Columbus (1969), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Yentl (1983), Enemies: A Love Story (1989), The Imported Bridegroom (1989), Schindler's List (1993), and others.
The authors will be selected from: Sholem Aleichem, Shakespeare, Jacob Gordin, Sh. An-ski, Sholem Asch, Philip Roth, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Abraham Cahan, Anzia Yezierska, and others.
All texts will be read in English. All films are in English or have English subtitles.