This course will examine Jewish American literature from iconic novels by masters Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth to short stories by classic authors such as Bernard Malamud and Tillie Olson, to works by distinguished contemporary authors such as Allegra Goodman and Michael Chabon. By contrast, we will read select works by mainstream or ethnic writers who also inhabit two worlds—whether by culture or religion---such as Gish Jen, Julia Alvarez, Raymond Carver, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. We will inquire as to whether a uniquely Jewish sensibility stands apart from other American literary traditions or if Jewish writers represent a leading edge of humanistic discourse.
Like many hyphenated Americans, Jews inhabit two worlds, both secular and sacred, assimilated or marginalized. They represent the archetype of the “Other”, so much a symbol for the contemporary struggle for identity where the outcomes range from alienation to affirmation. Like all humans, Jews confront the moral struggle as to how a “good” person should live, especially in a compromised American society that often and disdains goodness.
Alan Goldberg has been an adjunct professor in the Department of Rhetoric at USF since 1985. Concurrently, he has also taught in the English Department, Jewish Studies, and the Freshman Seminar Program. He did his undergraduate and graduate work in English and History at the University of Chicago, the University of Hawaii, and SFSU. He is a scholar in Jewish American Literature with a special interest in Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth and was a keynote speaker at the Saul Bellow Symposium at USF. He has also free-lanced widely in the field of sports, particularly baseball, a lifelong passion. Raising an athletic daughter in Mill Valley, he continues to coach women’s competitive fast-pitch softball.