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Jacob Glatstein: A Yiddish Genius in Anglicizing America
Mar 4 2014

TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 2014 | 7pm
Ruth Wisse, Harvard University

Click HERE to listen to the audio.

A Yiddishkayt of folk air
to prick the heart and pour
warm honey at the sight
of things that touch the cockles?
If that's the stuff we celebrate
we'd better do without.
Yiddish poets, are you bees
who close the feast
with honey-store
of song, and nothing more?

From "Yiddishkayt” by Jacob Glatstein
Translation by Cynthia Ozick

Yiddish poets and writers took off in America on the crest of a huge Jewish immigrant wave at the beginning of the twentieth century, and then kept ripening their talent as most other speakers of their language swept into the English mainstream. Can individual genius flourish during its culture’s decline? Jacob Glatstein, or Yankev Glatshteyn, became an American original by turning that question into the driving force of his poetry and the concern of his prose. Ruth Wisse will read excerpts from Jacob Glatstein's work in Yiddish.

The Glatstein Chronicles (Yale University Press), edited by Ruth Wisse, and Wisse’s most recent book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (Princeton University Press), will be available for sale at the event. Books will be sold through McNally Jackson bookstore.


Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She is the author of The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Language and Culture (University of Chicago), which won a National Jewish Book Award. Her other books include Jews and Power (Schocken) and The Schlemiel as Modern Hero (University of Chicago). Her most recent book, No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (Princeton University Press), was published by Princeton University Press in 2013.