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Cynthia Ozick and Jewish Literature: A Reader

Daniela Fargione, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Cynthia Ozick is one of the most respected contemporary American authors, whose fiction, according to many critics, exemplifies “the Jewish writer oxymoron.” Ozick respects the Jewish Covenant and its tradition, but she uses her imagination to invent stories; she worries about the temptations of paganism and the dangers of idolatry, but she fabricates fictional golems; she strongly refuses the label “woman writer”, but she writes essays in defense of feminism, demanding equal rights with respect to the Torah; she despises the treatment of Jewish history (and of the Holocaust in particular) as fiction, but she “cannot not write about it”. In short, Cynthia Ozick's art resists narrow categorization and her fiction overcomes rigid confines, both literary and ideological. These intriguing thematic complexities and cultural intricacies, dealt with a robust sense of humor and stylistic richness, deserve to be brought to the attention of the Italian reading public. In fact, if Ozick's belletristic reputation has been amply recognized in the United States, her popularity in Italy is still scant as very little of her production has been translated into Italian. The aim of this dissertation is to offer a sample of Cynthia Ozick's literary production as representative of both contemporary American literature and Jewish culture. Ozick's poems, short stories, and essays—which have been grouped in three different sections—have been chosen to introduce the author's kaleidoscopic production as reflective of her immense variety of interests and mental acuteness. Moreover, Cynthia Ozick's work is also used to exemplify some of the major recent shifts in translation studies, showing how the degree of her popularity in Italy depends on a slow dynamic, aimed at filling cultural gaps or at mapping new emerging cultural and religious geographies. Ozick's reception in Italian, in fact, raises significant linguistic and cultural problems including assimilation and marginality, the clash between the periphery and the center, and the use of translation as the process of canonization of a foreign writer who is also the representative of a “weak” literature, in the sense given by Itamar Even-Zohar in his Polysystem Theory.

Subject Area

Comparative literature|American literature

Recommended Citation

Fargione, Daniela, "Cynthia Ozick and Jewish Literature: A Reader" (2003). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3110485.