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Richard I. Cohen

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190912628

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190912628.001.0001

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Benjamin Schreier, The Impossible Jew: Identity and Reconstruction of Jewish American Literary History. New York: New York University Press, 2015. 269 pp.

Benjamin Schreier, The Impossible Jew: Identity and Reconstruction of Jewish American Literary History. New York: New York University Press, 2015. 269 pp.

Chapter:
Benjamin Schreier, The Impossible Jew: Identity and Reconstruction of Jewish American Literary History. New York: New York University Press, 2015. 269 pp.
Source:
Place in Modern Jewish Culture and Society
Author(s):
Richard I. Cohen
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190912628.003.0034

This chapter reviews the book The Impossible Jew: Identity and Reconstruction of Jewish American Literary History (2015), by Benjamin Schreier. In The Impossible Jew, Schreier challenges the dominance of a totalizing (historicist/nationalist/anthropologist) context in Jewish studies in America. Rather than asking what is “Jewish” in a text, he wishes to focus on scholars’ and readers’ inclination to conceptualize texts within one of these essentialist categories. He rejects the approach used by scholars to distinguish between the “Jews” and the “non-Jews.” Instead, he offers an alternative that highlights the way (Jewish) literature destabilizes these same categories. The Impossible Jew is thus a reflection on the impossibility of Jewishness as a coherent identity.

Keywords:   The Impossible Jew, Benjamin Schreier, Jewish studies, Jews and non-Jews, Jewish literature, Jewishness

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