By Emily Miller Budick
In an try and lend a extra nuanced ear to the continuing discussion among African and Jewish american citizens, Emily Budick examines the works of various writers, critics, and lecturers from the Nineteen Fifties throughout the Eighties. This research files conversations either specific, comparable to essays and letters, and oblique, resembling the fiction of Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Alice Walker, Cynthia Ozick, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin. the aim is to appreciate how this discussion has engendered misperceptions and misunderstandings, and the way blacks and Jews in the United States have either sought and resisted assimilation.
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Additional info for Blacks and Jews in Literary Conversation
Ellison's charge against the Jews, anticipating by a good decade the arguments of black aestheticists in the 1970s and on, is that they have, in some important way, "enslaved" the American black, albeit intellectually and imaginatively rather than literally (it will take the Nation of Islam to produce the literal charge). " we think Ellison is 28 MUTUAL TEXTUAL CONSTRUCTIONS doing no more than marking the literary critical or even political dimensions of the disagreement between them (p. 118). " Howe knows this, even before Ellison shows his hand in his final reply.
The Fire Next Time begins and ends with a quotation from Noah. 23 References to Ham and Noah continue to punctuate Ellison's response. The Noah text evidences Ellison's recognition of the importance of Jewish within Western and African American culture. However, insofar as Ellison is arguing against black culture forming itself in an Old Testament (white, Jewish, Howesque) image (this is the whole point of Ellison's response: to prevent white and Jewish critics from saying what black culture ought to be), and insofar as the issue between him and Howe is the Jew's unwillingness to articulate the Jewish role in Western culture, the Noah text also constitutes an accusation against the Jews of a kind of conspiracy against Western civilization, here mounted on cultural as opposed to economic or political grounds.
Knowing Negro Writer" and "Presuming White Intellectual": The Terms of the Black—Jewish Cultural Debate (Ralph Ellison, Irving Howe, and Stanley Edgar Hymanf Just one year after the publication of The Tenants, Cynthia Ozick read Malamud's novel as the bloody 1970s realization of the blackJewish conflict that had begun more quiedy and with greater civility in the 1960s. "It took die narrowest blink of time," writes Ozick, "for Malamud, who more than any other American writer seeks to make a noble literature founded on personal compassion, to come from 'Believe me, there are Jews everywhere,' " in "Angel Levine," to "the passionate bloodletting" of The Tenants (pp.