"Something Dreadful and Grand": American Literature and The Irish-Jewish Unconscious

Hardcover | July 16, 2015

byStephen Watt

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Elaborate analogies between Irish and Jewish history, between Irish and Jewish subjectivities, occur with surprising frequency throughout American literature. They recall James Joyce's Leopold Bloom and episodes of Ulysses, Douglas Hyde's analogies during the Celtic Revival between learningHebrew and learning Irish, and a myriad of claims of an unusual relationship between these peoples that goes beyond comparisons of their respective diasporic histories. But how does one describe this uncanny relationship, one often marked by hostility, affinity, and ambivalence, withoutessentializing people whose origins, class affiliation, educations, life experiences, and so on are enormously different?"Something Dreadful and Grand": American Literature and the Irish-Jewish Unconscious describes a complex allosemitism and allohibernianism through a variety of cultural texts with which immigrant Irish and Jewish Americans were most engaged: popular music of the Tin Pan Alley era, tenementliterature from Anzia Yezierska and James T. Farrell through the posthumous publication of Henry Roth's An American Type, and proletarian and socialist-inflected drama by Elmer Rice, Clifford Odets, Eugene O'Neill, and Arthur Miller as they engaged the Irish drama of such writers as Bernard Shaw andSean O'Casey. In an effort to trace both the genealogy and more recent trajectory of immigrant drama and fiction, chapters explore both the post-Famine melodramatic stage of the nineteenth century and a host of more contemporary texts from newer generations of immigrants. Throughout, the book arguesfor a "circum-North Atlantic" culture in which texts from Ireland, Britain, Irish America, and Jewish America contribute substantially to both a modern American literature and to understandings of the terms "Irish" and "Jewish." How can we really know what these terms mean as they delimit or erase totally the differences inherent to them? Borrowing a term from psychoanalytic and political theory, "Something Dreadful and Grand" explores the larger dimensions of this Irish-Jewish unconscious underlying cultural production inAmerica, arguing for the centrality of these two diasporic groups to the development of American popular music, fiction, and especially drama.

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Elaborate analogies between Irish and Jewish history, between Irish and Jewish subjectivities, occur with surprising frequency throughout American literature. They recall James Joyce's Leopold Bloom and episodes of Ulysses, Douglas Hyde's analogies during the Celtic Revival between learningHebrew and learning Irish, and a myriad of cla...

Stephen Watt is Provost Professor of English and Adjunct Professor of Drama, Theatre, and Contemporary Dance at Indiana University, Bloomington. He is the author of Joyce, O' Casey, and the Irish Popular Theater; Postmodern/Drama: Reading the Contemporary Stage and Beckett and Contemporary Irish Writing.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9.21 × 6.3 × 0.91 inPublished:July 16, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190227958

ISBN - 13:9780190227951

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Table of Contents

PrefaceAcknowledgements1. Introduction: Performing the Irish Jewish Unconscious2. The Cultural Work of Irish- and Jewish-American Melodrama3. Allosemitism and the Performative Uncanny: Leah and Shylock, Svengali and the Count of Monte Cristo4. The Jewish-Irish Modern American Drama5. The New Wandering RocksBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"Impeccably researched and incisively written, Stephen Watt's 'Something Dreadful and Grand' brilliantly illustrates how the simultaneously alluring and repulsive nature of Irishness and Jewishness underpins much American (and Irish) literature since the mid-nineteenth century, ranging over aseries of authors from the neglected to the canonical, and in the process permanently and illuminatingly changing our conception of what it means to be American." --Richard Rankin Russell, author of Modernity, Community, and Place in Brian Friel's Drama