He destroys in order to create. In a sweeping critique of the field, Benjamin Schreier resituates Jewish Studies in order to make room for a critical study of identity and identification. Displacing the assumption that Jewish Studies is necessarily the study of Jews, this book aims to break down the walls of the academic ghetto in which the study of Jewish American literature often seems to be contained: alienated from fields like comparative ethnicity studies, American studies, and multicultural studies; suffering from the unwillingness of Jewish Studies to accept critical literary studies as a legitimate part of its project; and so often refusing itself to engage in self-critique.
The Impossible Jew interrogates how the concept of identity is critically put to work by identity-based literary study. Through readings of key authors from across the canon of Jewish American literature and culture—including Abraham Cahan, the New York Intellectuals, Philip Roth, and Jonathan Safran Foer—Benjamin Schreier shows how texts resist the historicist expectation that self-evident Jewish populations are represented in and recoverable from them. Through ornate, scabrous, funny polemics, Schreier draws the lines of relation between Jewish American literary study and American studies, multiethnic studies, critical theory, and Jewish Studies formations. He maintains that a Jewish Studies beyond ethnicity is essential for a viable future of Jewish literary study.
Introduction: The School of Criticism I Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead In: A Polemic on Theorizing the Field 1
1. Toward a Critical Semitism: On Not Answering the Jewish Question in Literary Studies 22
2. Against the Dialectic of Nation: Abraham Cahan and Desire’s Spectral Jew 69
3. The Negative Desire of Jewish Representation; or, Why Were the New York Intellectuals Jewish? 95
4. Why Jews Aren’t Normal: The Unrepresentable Future of Philip Roth’s The Counterlife 149
5. 9/11’s Stealthy Jews: Jonathan Safran Foer and the Irrepresentation of Identity 185
Conclusion: Minority Report 214
About the Author 270
"The Impossible Jewis a brilliant and valuable contribution to the same field of research Schreier wishes to dismantle, or at least disrupt. It foregrounds a broader, unceasing preoccupation with Jewish identity as an undetermined element scholars will never put to rest." ~Studies in Contemporary Jewry
"Brilliant, original, and funny, this is the book many of us in Jewish and literary studies have been waiting for all these years: an absolutely convincing Jewish-literary-historical account of the impossibility of Jewish literary history and a stirring diagnosis of identity studies more broadly.The Impossible Jewwill be a paradigm-shifting book." ~Daniel Itzkovitz,co-editor of Queer Theory and the Jewish Question
"This is a profound and articulate work of high theory. Summing Up: Highly recommended." ~Choice