In search of American Jewish culture

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Brandeis University Press, 1999 - History - 307 pages
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In drama and in musical comedy, in popular song and in symphonic music, in movies and in literature, Jews have contributed to American culture in the 20th century to a degree out of all proportion to their numbers. But does this vast creative output coalesce into something identifiable as an American Jewish culture? Stephen J. Whitfield answers this question with a resounding "yes!"

Whitfield focuses on areas where the specifically Jewish contribution has been little explored. He surveys such fields as popular music, musical theater, and drama, focusing on key figures from Jerome Kern and the Gershwins to Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins; Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland to Irving Berlin and Bob Dylan; Arthur Miller and Lillian Hellman to David Mamet and Wendy Wasserstein.

At the same time, Whitfield tackles the complex issue of race and American Jewish culture, tracing the extensive interpenetrations of Jewish and African American music. He also offers a stunning examination of Jewish American representations of the Holocaust, focusing on stage and film adaptations of Anne Frank's Diary and on Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List.

In a poignant, final chapter, Whitfield ponders the future of American Jewish culture after a century of assimilationist pressure and mainstream success. The distinctive culture that he has traced through the 20th century, Whitfield concludes, may finally become submerged and lost. Only a renewed emphasis on Judaism itself, he believes, offers the hope for American Jews to maintain the dual cultural identities that they have so long succeeded in nurturing.

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IN SEARCH OF AMERICAN JEWISH CULTURE

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Whitfield (American Studies/Brandeis; A Death in the Delta: The Life of Emmett Till, 1988) examines the complex interplay between Jewish newcomers to the US and the culture they helped shape ... Read full review

In search of American Jewish culture

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The title begs the question: what is American Jewish culture, anyway? Whitfield (American studies, Brandeis Univ.; American Space, Jewish Time) attempts to answer by arguing that it is binary, an ... Read full review

Contents

DEFINITIONS I
1
CONDITIONS
32
MUSICAL THEATER
59
Copyright

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About the author (1999)

STEPHEN J. WHITFIELD is Professor of American Studies at Brandeis University, and author of seven other books, including The Culture of the Cold War (1990), A Death in the Delta: The Story of Emmett Till (1988), and American Space, Jewish Time (1988).