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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

By focusing on the reception of Yekl, Abraham Cahan’s 1896 novel of immigrant life in New York, this chapter considers the turn-of-the-twentieth-century controversy surrounding depictions of Jews in ghetto literature, arguing that this debate illuminates not only the challenges of ethno-racial representation and self-representation but also the slipperiness of realism itself. The chapter also posits a more inclusive interpretation of Jewish American realism by demonstrating the importance of an overlooked late nineteenth-century realist writer, Emma Wolf. It explores how Wolf’s novels Other Things Being Equal (1892) and Heirs of Yesterday (1900), which focus on experiences of Jewish families in San Francisco during the Progressive Era, offer important alternatives to the New York–centric ghetto genre, expanding the parameters of Jewish American literature in terms of region, class, gender, and religion.

Keywords: realism, ghetto realism, ghetto literature, Jewish American literature, immigrant life, ethno-racial representation, region, class, religion, gender

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