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Jewish Gangsters of Modern Literature cover
  • ISBN: 9780252025396
  • ISBN10: 0252025393

Jewish Gangsters of Modern Literature

by Rachel Rubin

  • List Price: $33.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Illinois Pr
  • Publish date: 04/01/2000
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In this vividly written study, Rachel Rubin posits the Jewish literary gangster -- a figure whose violence, transgressiveness, and ongoing internal conflict render him an important symbol of modernity -- as a locus for exploring questions of artistic power in the interwar years. Focusing specifically on the Russian writer Isaac Babel and Americans Mike Gold, Samuel Ornitz, and Daniel Fuchs, but also taking in cartoons, movies, and modernist paintings, Rubin casts the Jewish gangster as a crucial figure used by left-wing Jewish writers to examine their own place in world history.

Rubin contends that these writers saw their artistic endeavors as akin to the work of their gangster doubles outcasts and rebels "kneebreaking" their way into the literary canon while continuing to "do business" with the system In the hands of Jewish literary communists -- themselves engaged in transgressing cultural boundaries -- the figure of the Jewish gangster provides an occasion to craft a virile Jewish masculinity, to consider the role of vernacular in literature, to interrogate the place of art within a political economy, and to explore the fate of Jewishness in the "new worlds" of the United States and the Soviet Union.

In addition to tracing the transformation of a Russian folk hero into a pivotal figure in American literature, Rubin argues persuasively for inducting these leftist writers into the circle of experimental modernists that has hitherto excluded them.

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