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2 - Encountering English

from Part I - New World Encounters

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2015

Hana Wirth-Nesher
Affiliation:
Tel-Aviv University
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Summary

For Jewish authors in America who did not write in English, their encounter with English words has tended to emphasize the untranslatability of certain American concepts into their language and culture. This chapter offers diverse illustrations of language encounters that often intersect. In Call It Sleep, Henry Roth celebrates English as a medium for modernist experimentation as it intersects with Yiddish and Hebrew. The nature of the encounter with English in Jewish American writing depends on which language coexists alongside it, even if that other language is only a trace, an echo, an accent, or, a cipher. The chapter focuses on Hebrew and Yiddish, as they have tended to play a major role in the linguistic awareness of authors and characters. English engagement with other languages enriches Jewish American literature as well. Always more than just a language, English has served as promise, challenge, obstacle, riddle, and inspiration for Jewish American writers.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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