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Theses Doctoral

Yiddish and the Avant-Garde in American Jewish Poetry

Ponichtera, Sarah Elizabeth

This dissertation traces the evolution of a formalist literary strategy through the twentieth century in both Yiddish and English, through literary and historical analyses of poets and poetic groups from the turn of the century until the 1980s. It begins by exploring the ways in which the Yiddish poet Yehoash built on the contemporary interest in the primitive as he developed his aesthetics in the 1900s, then turns to the modernist poetic group In zikh (the Introspectivists) and their efforts to explore primitive states of consciousness in individual subjectivity. In the third chapter, the project turns to Louis Zukofsky's inclusion of Yehoash's Yiddish translations of Japanese poetry in his own English epic, written in dialogue with Ezra Pound. It concludes with an examination of the Language poets of the 1970s, particularly Charles Bernstein's experimental verse, which explores the way that language shapes consciousness through the use of critical and linguistic discourse. Each of these poets or poetic groups uses experimental poetry as a lens through which to peer at the intersections of language and consciousness, and each explicitly identifies Yiddish (whether as symbol or reality) as an essential component of their poetic technique.

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More Information

Academic Units
Germanic Languages
Thesis Advisors
Dauber, Jeremy A.
Golston, Michael Bernhard
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
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