Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

5/1/2016 - 12/31/2016

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$33,600.00 (awarded)

The Object of 20th-Century Jewish Literature: A Material History

FAIN: FA-232362-16

Barbara Ellen Mann
Jewish Theological Seminary of America (New York, NY 10027-4649)

A book-length study of the material qualities of texts and literary depictions of objects in modern Jewish literature.

My project reads 20th-century Jewish literature through the lens of material culture, analyzing the material qualities of texts, the depiction of things, and discourse about materiality during a period shaped by migration, the Shoah and social, political upheaval. Examining how transition and rupture have refashioned Jewish textuality as material culture will enrich our sense of literature's complex relation to its physical surroundings. Jewish writing emerges from a culture whose theological tradition has an ambivalent relation to embodied forms such as idols. Thus Jewish writing is an ideal forum for exploring how literature deploys objects as emblems of ideas and emotions, and how books may function as things. Treating a wide variety of genres, a material analysis of Jewish writing will sharpen our understanding of how secular culture is indebted to traditional religious forms. Moving beyond language and place, my material reading suggests new, transnational models of identity.

Associated Products

The Object of Jewish Literature: A Material History (Book)
Title: The Object of Jewish Literature: A Material History
Author: Barbara E. Mann
Abstract: A history of modern Jewish literature that explores our enduring attachment to the book as an object With the rise of digital media, the "death of the book” has been widely discussed. But the physical object of the book persists. Here, through the lens of materiality and objects, Barbara E. Mann tells a history of modern Jewish literature, from novels and poetry to graphic novels and artists’ books. Bringing contemporary work on secularism and design in conversation with literary history, she offers a new and distinctive frame for understanding how literary genres emerge. The long twentieth century, a period of tremendous physical upheaval and geographic movement, witnessed the production of a multilingual canon of writing by Jewish authors. Literature’s objecthood is felt not only in the physical qualities of books—bindings, covers, typography, illustrations—but also through the ways in which materiality itself became a practical foundation for literary expression. Barbara E. Mann is professor of cultural studies and Hebrew literature and the Chana Kekst Professor of Jewish Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is the author of Space and Place in Jewish Studies.
Year: 2022
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: Yale University Press
Publisher: Yale University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780300234114
Copy sent to NEH?: No