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Sun, Oct 23



Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine with Amelia Glaser

Between the world wars, a generation of Jewish leftist poets reached out to other embattled peoples of the earth—in Yiddish verse. In her book Songs in Dark Times, Prof. Amelia Glaser examines the richly layered meanings of this project, grounded in Jewish collective trauma.

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Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine with Amelia Glaser
Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine with Amelia Glaser

Time & Location

Oct 23, 2022, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM CDT


About the Event

The long 1930s, Amelia M. Glaser proposes, gave rise to a genre of internationalist modernism in which tropes of national collective memory were rewritten as the shared experiences of many national groups. The utopian Jews of Songs in Dark Times effectively globalized the pogroms in a bold and sometimes fraught literary move that asserted continuity with anti-Arab violence and black lynching. As communists and fellow travelers, the writers also sought to integrate particular experiences of suffering into a borderless narrative of class struggle. Glaser resurrects their poems from the pages of forgotten Yiddish communist periodicals, particularly the New York–based Morgn Frayhayt (Morning Freedom) and the Soviet literary journal Royte Velt (Red World). Alongside compelling analysis, Glaser includes her own translations of ten poems previously unavailable in English, including Malka Lee’s “God’s Black Lamb,” Moyshe Nadir’s “Closer,” and Esther Shumiatsher’s “At the Border of China.”

These poets dreamed of a moment when “we” could mean “we workers” rather than “we Jews.” Songs in Dark Times takes on the beauty and difficulty of that dream, in the minds of Yiddish writers who sought to heal the world by translating pain.

Amelia M. Glaser is Associate Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego, where she also holds an endowed chair in Judaic Studies. She won the Leviant Prize (MLA) for her translations of left-wing Yiddish poets, published in Proletpen: America’s Rebel Yiddish Poets (U. Wisconsin Press, 2005).  She is author of Jews and Ukrainians in Russia’s Literary Borderlands (Northwestern U.P., 2012), which recently appeared in Russian translation (Academic Studies Press, 2021). She is the editor of Stories of Khmelnytsky: Competing Literary Legacies of the 1648 Ukrainian Cossack Uprising (Stanford U.P., 2015) as well, as, with Steven S. Lee, Comintern Aesthetics (U. Toronto Press, 2020). Her most recent monographs, Songs in Dark Times: Yiddish Poetry of Struggle from Scottsboro to Palestine (Harvard U.P., 2020) was awarded the 2021 Jordan Schnitzer Prize for the best book in an area of Literature or Linguistics (AJS). She  has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Jewish Quarterly, and the Times Literary Supplement.

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