Archive for December, 2010


Dec 16 2010

We Meet Again, Mr. Melville

by at 5:14 pm

Now that my Yiddish communism paper is finished, I’m starting to work on my paper for Priscilla’s class. One of the nice things about Duke is that intellectual freedom is very much encouraged. Priscilla’s class is on human beings after genocide but our papers can be on whatever we’d like. We can choose to rework something we’ve already written, submit her a conference paper, really whatever we want feedback on. So I’ve decided to revise a chapter of my thesis with the intention of preparing for an article type piece. So chapter three of my Master’s thesis (“Electric Publics and Electric Nations: The Creation of a National Identity in Herman Melville’s Pierre; or, the Ambiguities“), hello again.

I’m really excited to be going back to my thesis, especially this chapter, being that it was my last one. Re-reading my thesis in preparation for this project, I realized that my first and second chapters were actually not bad at all. They seemed coherent and well formulated. The third chapter could use some work, but it’s my favorite chapter concetually. Because of deadlines, that last chapter is just not as polished. So now’s the time for some cleaning.

What I’ve got to do to fix this up:

1. Reorginzation: As per usual, I get to my argument towards the end. The end needs to sort of be sent to the beginning.

2. Background information from my introduction needs to be filled in in some places. If this is going to be an article type thing it needs to be able to stand on its own.

3. Finally I’m going to need to do some more reading. I didn’t do enough critical reading of exisiting Pierre and Melville scholarship. I also need to do a little more theoretical reading on publics and seances, etc.

So Georgetown first and second years: if you decided to write a thesis and want to remain in academia and write and stuff, the thesis is not at all a waste of time.

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Dec 07 2010

Queers and the Jews

by at 3:29 pm

In order to prep for my Yankev Gordin paper, I’ve been doing some research on Yiddish literature. This led to Leo Wiener’s seminal work on The History of Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth-Century (1899). Professor of Slavic Languages at Harvard, Wiener was troubled by a tendency in langauge studies to overlook Yiddish as a legitimate language worthy of study. I’ve been taking lots and lots of notes on this text (a blog post on this is forthcoming), but I couldn’t help myself from posting about some exciting tangents this text has led me to. In his chapter on Jewish folklore, Wiener mentions Abramawitsch’s The Jewish Don Quixote, whose protagonist enters on a quest to find the Sambation River so that he can find the Lost Tribes of Israel (Wiener 31). Given my orthodox upbrining, any mention of the Sambation River gets me sort of excited. So I naturally looked to see what this text is about and I came across an article by Leah Garrett who says the following:

 n 1878, the renowned Jewish writer Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh published a Yiddish version1 of Don Quixote entitled The Travels of Benjamin the Third.2 In the novella, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are reconstituted as two small-town Jewish fools, who are traveling through Poland on their way to Israel. The novella mimics the structure, plot, and characters of Don Quixote.
     However, The Travels of Benjamin the Third pushes themes from Don Quixote to satiric extremes. For example, in The Travels everyone is as mad as the Jewish Don Quixote, Benjamin, and the relationship between him and Sancho Panza (Sendrel) is an homosexual marriage.

Source: From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 17.2 (1997): 94-105.
Copyright © 1997, The Cervantes Society of America

So this text is even weirder than I thought.  Jewish Don Quixote marries Jewish Sancho Panza? How queer! So now I’m wondering about prevalence of queerness in Yiddish writings. Okay, that’s all for now, but notice the image above. I must read this book.  It looks fabulous (plus, Babs is on the cover and I love my Babs).

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