Isaac Bashevis Singer arrived in New York on May 1, 1935, on a tourist visa—and spent the next two years finalizing his immigrant status while trying to advance the career he had begun to establish in Warsaw. Using archival sources, this consideration of Singer’s life and work revisits some of the details presented in his work—which may have seemed irrelevant or inconvenient for his own account—to paint a more intricate portrait of his path as a young Yiddish writer in America.
“Your Papers for a Tourist Visa”
A Literary-Biographical Consideration of
Isaac Bashevis Singer in Warsaw, 1923–1935
This article focuses on two aspects of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s life and work from 1923 to 1935. First, it outlines his early career in Warsaw, focusing on his essays and tracing his efforts to establish a literary career independent from that of his older brother, Israel Joshua. Second, it considers Singer’s emigration from Warsaw, with a focus on his brother’s efforts to get him out, as found in personal correspondence. The article delineates a tension between Singer’s establishment of a position within Yiddish literature in Warsaw distinct from his brother’s, and the need to leave the city in order to survive, adding Israel Joshua’s own voice to the testimony from this period.
European Journal of Jewish Studies, 15.2 (2021), 256-284
Idiocy and Irony
Plato's Dialogues and Dostoevsky's The Idiot
This article focuses on two concepts, irony and idiocy, as they appear in the works of Plato and Dostoevsky. In Plato's case, the article describes how irony is thematized in a rhetorical mode and also deployed as a dialectical method, creating dramatic tension that produces additional layers of significance.
Soundings, 104.1 (2021), 89-112
Isaac Bashevis Singer's work has often been identified with demons, but his use of the Yeytser-hore as narrator may be more than a simple preoccupation with the realm of evil. Rather than merely portraying evil in literature, Singer was working within a mystical tradition that harnessed what it saw as the powers of evil to do good in the world. . .
The Yiddish Roots of
Modern Jewish Writing
in Europe and America
Jewish literatures in Europe underwent tremendous tensions and pressures with- in the specific contexts of modernity. My case study focuses on Rabbi Nahman’s tales, which were told orally by him in Yiddish and subsequently written down by his disciples. . .
Disseminating Jewish Literatures (2020), 251-256
J. D. Salinger’s story “Seymour; An Introduction” (1959) purports to be an “Introduction” to the work of a man named Seymour Glass, written by his fictional brother Buddy. It is part of a series of fictional works published by Salinger over seventeen years, portraying aspects of the life of the Glass family. . .
Melanie Klein’s theories on love outline a complex system of relations—an oscillating dynamic of psychical and emotional tendencies following from both actual experience and fantasies produced by the mind. Her insights are often discussed and applied in psychoanalytical contexts, but the philosophical implications of her theory—especially in relation to Platonic thought—have rarely been discussed. . .
This article deals with genetic connections between Fyodor Dostoevsky and Catherine Breillat—using psychoanalysis and philosophy that integrates Plato and Aristotle with Kleinian psychoanalysis. The article develops the notion of two kinds of love, good and bad, distinguishing Freud's work on instincts referencing Plato's Symposium, from Klein's interest in the function of instincts in human relations. . .
The term “unreliable” was introduced by Wayne Booth to describe narrators who, he claimed, speak or act in a way that is not “in accordance with the norms of the work (which is to say the implied author’s norms).” Booth further described “unreliability” as a distance, but by discussing such distance as separating a work’s narrator from the thematic or authorial norms implied by that work, he isolated an integral element of a work’s literary dynamic—its problematized narrator—and normatively detached it from the rest of the work. . .
At the heart of this article is a fairly straightforward assertion: that literature has a trans-verbal level at which it affects us as a work of art. Hence discussing a novel means bringing to the fore not only its overt narrative function but also its covert artistic function: a consideration of the work in light of its aesthetic intention. . .
Within Isaac Bashevis Singer’s large body of work, the “Author’s Note” at the end of The Penitent (1983)—which only appears in the novel’s English edition—requires special attention. Not only is it the longest of Singer’s notes in this style, but its placement at the end of the novel, rather that at its beginning, sets it apart from other such notes published during his lifetime. . .
On the first reading of La Peste, the narrator is imagined as an anonymous figure who promises to reveal his identity “toujours à temps” (16). Throughout the narrative, however, the narrator betrays clues as to his identity and in the final chapter reveals that he is, as the reader may by then have come to suspect, Dr. Bernard Rieux. . . .
This is a response to the questions asked by Franco Passalacqua and Federico Pianzola as a follow-up of the 2013 ENN conference. The discussions that originated at the conference were rich and thought-provoking and so the editors of this special section of «Enthymema» decided to continue the dialogue about the state of the art and the future of narratology. . .
When Isaac Bashevis Singer published The Penitent in 1983, the short novel was met with harsh criticism from the likes of Harold Bloom and Peter S. Prescott. Putting forth a participatory Aristotelian response to the novel, I suggest that disparaging readings of the novel often exhibit the very kind of reductivism of which they accuse the main character – and sometimes also the historical author. . .
The chronicler‐narrator of Dostoevsky's Demons, Anton Lavrentievich
G—v, seems like an inscrutable and oscillatory storyteller. On the one hand he is profusely talkative and repeatedly justifies his position as narrator; on the other, he reports scenes that he did not witness and could not have direct knowledge about, including what people say and even think.
© Copyright David Stromberg