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Ethnic Identity and the Jewish American Writers

Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca

When it comes to the great American literature of the second half of the 20
th century, one realizes that it cannot be discussed without taking into account the fact that authors of Jewish American descent had a considerable contribution to its development. Obviously, in most cases, this special cultural background has had a considerable impact at least on the subject matter and the vision that these writers brought to the literary scene. However it is not an easy matter to determine to what extent this ethnical heritage has led to the creation of a radically different type of literature than the one written by WASP writers for instance, the same way it is not easy to define a hyphenated Jewish-American identity or the degree to which a writer may accept such a label or acknowledge the influence that his/her Jewishness had upon their works. The present article brings together the diverse voices of some of these writers and literary critics, centered around several issues like: for whom is the Jewish-American literature written, what makes an “ethnic” writer different from an “American” one, what is Jewish identity, how visible it is in the works of these authors and how these elements have survived in the literature of the contemporary multicultural America?

Keywords: Jewish American writers, ethnic identity, affiliation, American multiculturalism, target audience, assimilation, acculturation


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