AML 4685/JST 3930


Race and Ethnicity in Twentieth-Century American Literature:

                                                  Jewish-American Fiction


Fall 2005  Section 8974                             Professor Andrew Gordon

                             T 7 (1:55-2:45), Th 7-8 (1:55-3:50)     TUR 2306



Office:            4332 TUR

Phone:          392-6650 x254

Hours:           W 7-9 (1:55-4:55) or by appointment

Mailbox:        4301 TUR                                                                 


Home page:





            This course traces the development of Jewish-American fiction within the context of twentieth-century American literatures and cultures and deals with the role of ethnic literatures within our multiethnic nation.  Most of the works we will read deal with problems of assimilation of Jews into American society and the quest of the protagonists for identity as both Americans and Jews.  We begin with the influence of Eastern-European Yiddish literature (stories in translation) and then read a selection of Jewish-American stories and novels from the beginning of this century up to the present.  We will study how Jewish-American authors were influenced by and contributed to traditions of naturalism, realism, modernism, and postmodernism in twentieth-century American fictions.  We will also study such topics as anti-Semitism, literary responses to the Holocaust and to the state of Israel, and the rise of Jewish feminism.

            This is not a course in religion and you need not be Jewish to take it.  An interest in American literature, history, and culture or in the issues of ethnic identity and assimilation is sufficient.  I hope this course will make you a more sensitive interpreter of American culture and a better writer.





            Andrew M. Gordon received the Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Berkeley and has taught post-WW II American fiction, Jewish-American fiction, science fiction, and film at UF since 1975.  He has been a Fulbright Lecturer in American Literature in Spain, Portugal, and the former Yugoslavia, a Visiting Professor

in Hungary and Russia, and taught in the UF summer program in Rome.  He is author of An American Dreamer: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Fiction of Norman Mailer, co-editor (with Professor Peter Rudnytsky, UF) of  Psychoanalyses/Feminisms, and co-author (with Professor Hernan Vera, UF) of Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness.  In addition, he has many articles and reviews on contemporary American fiction and film, including Jewish-American writers such as Mailer, Bellow, Ozick, and Philip Roth. He directs the Institute for the Psychological Study of the Arts and co-edits Studies in American Jewish Literature.





At Goering's Books, 1717 NW 1st Ave, next to Bageland:


America and I: Short Stories by American Jewish Women Writers ed. Joyce Antler (Beacon)

The Rise of David Levinsky by Abraham Cahan (Harper)

Breadgivers by Anzia Yezierska (Persea)

Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (Avon)

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud (Avon)

Seize the Day by Saul Bellow  (Penguin)

The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow (Signet)

Maus and Maus II by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)

A Weave of Women by E.M. Broner (Indiana)

American Pastoral by Philip Roth (Vintage)

Cambridge Companion to Jewish-American Literature ed. Michael P. Kramer and  Hana Wirth-Nesher (Cambridge)


At Custom Copies, 309 NW 13 St, across from Krispy Kreme:


Xeroxed readings from Jewish-American Stories ed. Irving Howe





1) Attendance and participation.  After the first week, attendance counts.  You are allowed three hours absence; every unexcused cut after that means two percent off your final grade (up to 10%).  Being present is not enough; you are strongly encouraged to participate as well. In the event of a prolonged illness or other emergency, please notify me as soon as possible, so that we may insure that you do not fall behind.  Lateness is disruptive and is strongly discouraged. Being 15 minutes or more late to class or leaving early will be considered half an absence.  If you have special classroom access, seating, or other needs, please bring those to my attention.  If you are unable to attend class or hand in an assignment because of a university-sponsored event or because of religious observances, please notify me well in advance.  Total for attendance and good participation = 10%. 

2) Quizzes on the reading.  Short responses on characters and plot designed to keep you coming to class prepared. Twelve scheduled; ten required.  Do eleven or twelve and I drop the lowest grade or grades.  NO QUIZ MAKEUPS.  Quizzes= 20%.


3) Two papers.  I will suggest topics, but feel free to write on any idea, feeling, character, image, or technique in a work.  Papers 1 may but need not necessarily involve research.  Paper 2 should be a research paper (cite at least three critical sources) of seven-eight pages and may deal with one work or compare any two works:  for example, Jewish women in Breadgivers and Weave of Women.  Original thought and closely focused, careful analysis are encouraged.  Papers may evolve from but should not merely repeat class discussion. You are encouraged as well to apply to the fiction knowledge from other courses (religion, sociology, history, psychology, philosophy, art, women’s studies, or political science, for example).

            Alternatively, for Paper 1 you may use the fiction to create your own:  for example,"Further Adventures of David Levinsky" or a chapter retold, such as "Dora's View of Levinsky.”  You can write a prequel or sequel to the story or novel or rewrite an incident from another point of view. You can transpose a character from one story into another: one student placed the characters from Breadgivers into an episode of Seinfeld; another introduced Sara from Breadgivers to David Levinsky. There are numerous possibilities:  use your imagination and pay careful attention to the personality of the characters and the style of  the narrator when attempting to duplicate or parody elements of the story.  This is a way to experience the fiction by writing your way into it. I would recommend this option only to those with previous experience in fiction writing.  Please consult with me in advance about this option.

            I am always glad to discuss paper topics or review rough drafts during office hours. Take advantage of office hours or schedule an appointment or send me an e-mail.  It is far more useful for you to consult with me before handing in the paper than after the graded paper is returned.

            If you are writing an analytic paper, you may use critics as a starting point or in order to bolster your own argument, but do not rely on them excessively. Your voice should dominate the argument.  When you consult critics, be sure to read more than one to get different opinions.  Paper Two must be a research paper. Document all published sources with quotation marks and footnotes in MLA Style (see any current handbook on composition, or The MLA Style Manual by Walter Achtert and Joseph Gibaldi, a recent issue of PMLA in the library, or for this form of documentation).

            The University community’s policies and methods regarding academic honesty are clearly spelled out in the Academic Honesty Guidelines printed in the current Undergraduate Catalog and available online from the Office of Student Judicial Affairs home page of the Dean of Students Office WWW site, at  Any student who uses material that is not his or her own without proper attribution will fail the course.

            Papers are due in my mailbox or under my office door by 4:00 on the due date.  Notify me before the due date if you need more time.  Unexcused late papers lose two points per school day.  Papers more than five days late will not be accepted.

            You may revise paper 1 if it receives less than B (but not if it is a late paper).  This is due within one week after the paper is returned.  Please submit the original paper with your revision. The revision will receive a higher grade (the number of points depends on the improvement).  Paper 2 may not be revised. 

            Please make enough copies of Paper 1 for the entire class.  To save on costs, the copies may be single-spaced and back-to-back (the version you give me, however, should be double-spaced).  The purpose of these copies is to give you a sense of writing for an audience of your classmates.  As time permits, we will discuss some papers in class.


            Paper 1 (due Friday, Sep 30 by 4 pm):  five pages (approximately 1250 words) on a work from Weeks 1-5 (including Breadgivers.). 


            Paper 2 (due Monday, Dec 12 by 4 pm): seven-eight pages (approximately 1750-1800 words) on one or two works from the course (this may be a comparison paper on two works).  Paper 2 should be a research paper using at least three critical sources. 


Paper 1= 25%; Paper 2= 35%.


4)         One oral report. Inform yourselves about an author, present information (more than a capsule biography), or lead class discussion. These reports may help you prepare for your papers.  Reports can be done individually or in a group of 2-4 students (I will distribute sign-up sheets).  Avoid a list of dates or works or prizes; these can best be given in a handout.  Instead, try to give a sense of the author or a work, even of a Jewish-American author or work not assigned.  Five minutes per person. You can use audiovisual equipment or powerpoint presentations. Have fun; this is required but ungraded (everyone gets 10% for doing it). 


Oral report = 10%.


Summary:    Attendance and Participation = 10%

            Quizzes  =     20%

                        Papers=          60%

                        Oral report=   10%


There is no midterm or final exam in this course and no extra credit work.


Classroom etiquette


Please, no chatting, reading of newspapers, or sleeping during class.  You may use laptop computers and other portable electronic devices to take notes during class discussion or for in-class presentations.  WWW browsing, emailing, chatting, etc., unrelated to class activities is, however, completely inappropriate. Cell phones, pagers, and other communication devices should be turned off during class.






Week 1           Th, Aug 25:   Introduction.


Week 2           T, Aug 30:      In Jewish-American Stories:  Aleichem,     ”Hat,”


                        Th, Sep 1:     In Jewish-American Stories: Babel, “Dovecot.”                             

                                                Levinsky  Introduction and through p. 81. Cambridge:

                                                Introduction and Chapters 1,3.  Q (Quiz) 1.


Week 3           T, Sep 6:        Levinsky to p. 350.

                        Th, Sep 8:     Finish Levinsky. Q2. 


Week 4           T, Sep 13:      In America: Introduction, Antin.

                        Th, Sep 15:   In America: Ferber, Hurst, Yezierska. Q3.    


Week 5           T, Sep 20:      Breadgivers Intro and to p. 110.

                        Th, Sep 22:   Finish Breadgivers. Q4.       


Week 6           T, Sep 27:    In Jewish-American Stories: Schwartz, “Dreams.”

                        Th, Sep 29:    Call It Sleep, Prologue and Book I, "The Cellar."    


                                                Paper 1 due Friday, Sep 30 by 4 pm.  


Week 7           T, Oct 4:          Call It Sleep, to end of Book III, "The Coal."

                        Th, Oct 6:        Finish Call It Sleep.  Cambridge Chapter 6. Q5.  


Week 8           T, Oct 11:       Bellow, Seize the Day.  


                        Th, Oct 13:    Finish Seize the Day.  Cambridge Chapter 10. Q6.


Week 9           T, Oct 18:      In Jewish-American Stories:  Malamud, “Magic Barrel.”

                        Th, Oct 20:     Assistant to p. 122.



Week 10       T, Oct 25:         Finish Assistant.  Q7         

                        Th, Oct 27:     In Jewish-American Stories:  Mailer, “Man  Who Studied

                                                Yoga,” Goodman, “Facts of Life,” Gold, “Heart of the

                                                Artichoke,” Allen, “No Kaddish.”  Cambridge Chapter 7.


Week 11        T, Nov 1:         In America:  Calisher. Book of Daniel Book One: Memorial

                                                Day.  Cambridge Chapter 9.  Q8.

                        Th, Nov 3:     Book of Daniel Book Two: Halloween.  


Week 12        T, Nov 8:         Finish Book of Daniel.  Q9.

                        Th, Nov 10:    Maus and Maus II.  Cambridge Chapter 11.   Q10.


Week 13        T, Nov 15:       In America:  Ozick, Newman.                                                                                   Th, Nov 17:           In Jewish-American Stories:  Olsen, “Tell Me a Riddle,”

                                                Paley, “Loudest Voice.”  Weave to p.56. 


Week 14        T, Nov 22:       Finish Weave.  Q11. 

                        Th, Nov 24:   THANKSGIVING               


Week 15        T, Nov 29:       American Pastoral Part I: Paradise Remembered.

                                                Cambridge Chapter 14.

                        Th. Dec 1 :     American Pastoral Part II: The Fall.


Week 16        T, Dec 6:        American Pastoral Part III: Paradise Lost.  Q12.



                                    Paper Two due Monday, Dec 12 by 4 pm













Rules for Writing (these are jokes; each memorably illustrates the rule by breaking it):


1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

5. Avoid cliches like the plague.

6. Also always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

10. No sentence fragments.

11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.

12. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

14. One should never generalize.

15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

16. Don't use no double negatives.

17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

18. One_word sentences? Eliminate.

19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.

20. The passive voice is to be ignored.

21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.

22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.

23. Kill all exclamation points!!!

24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.

26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.

27. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a

million can use it well.

28. Puns are for conversation and children, not groan readers.

29. Go all around Robin Hood's barn to avoid colloquialisms.

30. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

31. Who needs rhetorical questions?

32. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

33. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.






My Rules (joking aside):


1.  Grading Criteria: 

            A (90 and above)=  distinguished work, well written, free from all serious defects,

                        shows originality and insight.

B (80)=  good work, above average performance, no serious weaknesses in form or content. 

C (70)=  acceptable work, unobjectionable.  A C paper usually has more writing errors than the A or B paper and does not show as much depth,

                        originality, or insight.

            D (60)=  below average work:  serious or many defects in form and/or content.

            E (55 or under)=  unacceptable. 

            0= plagiarism or failure to turn in an assignment will result in failure in the course.

A grade such as A-/B+ means that your paper was on the borderline between the two grades.


2.   Pick a carefully focused topic you can handle in a few pages:  not "The Character of Holden Caulfield in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye" but "Holden and Phoebe" or "Holden and the Movies."


3.   State your thesis (an argument or point worth proving) at the end of the first or second paragraph.  For example:  "The automobiles and the way they are driven in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby reflect the character of the people who own or drive them."


4.   Be sure your argument is original and worthwhile.  Don't waste your time and mine restating the obvious, reciting critical commonplaces, or retelling the plot.


5.   Your title should reflect your specific topic:  not The Great Gatsby but "Cars in Gatsby."


6.   Do not underline or put in quotation marks your own title.


7.   Support your argument with references to characters, incidents, and relevant quotations.


8.   Recount narrative action in present tense:  "At Myrtle's party, everyone gets drunk and Tom breaks Myrtle's nose."  Exception:  action which is antecedent to the "present tense" of the narrative:  "Gatsby had always been given to grandiose dreams, dreams which seem realized when he met Daisy in 1917."

9.   Use "   " even when quoting only a few words from the text.


10.  Avoid long quotations, especially in short papers.  If a quotation is longer than 50 words, set it off by indenting and single-spacing it.  You don't need to use "   " then since it is already set off from your text.


11.  When you are quoting two lines of poetry as if they were prose, put them in "     " and use a slash / to indicate line endings.  When you are quoting three or more lines of poetry, indent, single-space and write them out exactly as they appear on the page in the original text.  You don't need to put them in "   " then.         

12.  Dialogue is already in "   " in a story, so quote using double quotation marks:  "’    '" (13).


13.  Follow American punctuation:  commas and periods go inside the quotation marks, unless a parentheses follows.  Thus:


                      "        ,"          or   "    ."


           But       "         " (13),  or   "    " (13).


14.  Novel but "Short Story."  In other words, underline (or italicize) the titles of long works but use "   " around the titles of short works.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald but "The Swimmer" by John Cheever.


15.  Number all pages (except cover page and page one).


16.  Keep a copy of the paper for your protection.


17.  Never end a line with a hyphen.


18.  Avoid paragraphs that are too short (one or two sentences) or too long (one page).


19.  A hyphen is indicated by a -.  A dash is indicated by a --.  Don't confuse the two.


20.  A  three-dot ellipsis (. . .) indicates that something has been omitted from the middle of quoted matter.  You don't need the ellipsis at the beginning of a quotation (it is obvious that something has been omitted if your quotation does not begin with a capital letter).  A four-dot ellipsis (. . . .) indicates that the end of a sentence or a sentence or more has been omitted (the fourth dot is the period ending the sentence).


21.  Use brackets [   ] not parentheses to indicate your own insertions within quoted matter:  "His [Jim's] notion was wrong."  Parentheses within quoted matter are taken as the original author's.

22.  I don't expect perfection in papers because I don't find it in my own work.  Everyone can use a good editor.  Writing errors are evidence that you are doing your own work and honestly trying.  Use your mistakes: learn from them and learn to be your own editor. 


23.  I value papers that do some original thinking and teach me something new about a novel or story.  When you're writing, remember:  you're the teacher.


24.  Some abbreviations I use in correcting or commenting on papers:



AWK= awkward


BA= "Not only x. . .but also y."  Keep them balanced, grammatically equivalent:  "She wanted not only to swim the English Channel but also to climb Mount Everest."


CHOP= choppy writing.  Too many short sentences in a row; this usually goes along with W, O-U, and R.


D= diction (word choice:  check dictionary or thesarus)


DP= dangling participle:  "Walking down the street, the Empire State Building came into view."  Who is walking?  The building?


FS= fragment sentence.  For example:  He wanted to run.  Although he could barely walk.  The second "sentence" is FS (a subordinate clause belonging to the first sentence).


H= "On the one hand. . . .On the other hand. . . ."   Don't use one without the other.  Think of a pair of handcuffs.


ITS= one of the most common spelling mistakes is the incorrect use of "it's."  This can only be used as a contraction for "it is."  The possessive of "it" is "its," formed like "yours," "theirs," or "ours"--without the apostrophe.


N-P= lack of agreement between noun and pronoun:  "Will everyone take their seat?"  Incorrect because "everyone" is singular.  Should be "Will everyone take her seat?" or "his or her seat."  "Each" is also singular.  You can tell by the singular verbs:  "everyone is" or "each is."


O-U= omit unneeded words


PSV= avoid passive tense (not "the ball is hit by me" but "I hit the ball").


R= needless repetition  (Note: a lot of what I do in reading papers is crossing things out:  unnecessary or repetitious words, phrases, sentences, or occasionally entire    paragraphs.)


RO= run-on sentence



CS= run-on sentence, comma splice (using a comma where a period, semicolon, or comma plus coordinating conjunction is called for).  For example:  He wanted to go, however, he couldn't.  That's CS because the clauses on both sides of the comma can stand as independent sentences, and you can’t link sentences with a comma.  Correct to:                                He wanted to go.  However, he couldn't.  

                                    He wanted to go; however, he couldn't.

                                    He wanted to go, but he couldn't.


S-V= lack of agreement between subject and verb.  "High levels of air pollution damages the respiratory tract" is incorrect.  Ignore the prepositional phrase "of air pollution"; the true subject is "levels."  Correct to "High levels of air pollution damage the respiratory tract."


SP= spelling


T= wrong tense


U= unclear


V= vague


W= wordy


   = paragraph


    = good point