Why don’t university English departments, which routinely include experts in and courses on a range of American minority literatures (African-American, Chicano, etc.), include American-Jewish literature on that list? That question was posed by a panel at the Modern Language Association’s annual conference, which began Sunday in Philadelphia. Professors on the panel—kicked off by Tablet Magazine columnist Josh Lambert—noted that only two of the top 20 English departments in the U.S. have a tenure-track faculty member with expertise on American-Jewish lit, whereas 11 have a specialist in the Native American canon. Further, panelists pointed out, where expertise on Jewish literature does exist within the academy, it’s often focused singularly on the writing of the Holocaust. Though no one suggested that anti-Semitism was afoot, another panelist argued that, within the academy, “Jewishness has been associated with Israel, white privilege, colonialism and racism”: a set of connotations unlikely, to say the least, to garner minority literature points for the Jews.
The Lost Tribe [Inside Higher Ed]
Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.