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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sarah Reichert on Friday October 30, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to ENG 202 at Texas A&M University - Commerce taught by Derek Royal in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 8 views. For similar materials see /class/232417/eng-202-texas-a-m-university-commerce in Foreign Language at Texas A&M University - Commerce.
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Date Created: 10/30/15
Prof Derek P Royal ENG 202 7 MultiEthnic American Literature Ben Katchor s The Jew ofNew York gt Much like Blood of Palomar The Jew of New York is novelistic in scope and is comprised of various major storylines o The performance of the play The Jew of New York and the interactions between Samson Gergel and Maynard Daizy Nathan Kishon his past relationship with Moishe Ketzelbourd Maurice Cougar and his current business relationship with Mr Marah Isaac Azarael s import business and his concern for the naked Indian The Kabbalist Yosl Feinbroyt and his transcription of digestive sounds Enoch Letushim Francis Oriole and the Lake Erie SodaWater Company Hershel Goulbat and his Lost Tribe exhibition And in these are intertwined with other shorter stories 0 Major Mordeci Noah and his attempts to found Ararat a new Jerusalem O Vervel Kunzo the man in the rubber suit and his report on Jews of New York The final performance of English actress Miss Patella Prof Solidus the author of The Jew of New York and his antiSemitism V Also like Blood of Palomar the competing storylines make it difficult to determine who the main character is In other words whose story is most prominent and central to the book Might the protagonist be composite in nature Is the the Jew in the abstract V Along with this The Jew of New York is a very heteroglossic narrative comprised of many voices and ideas 1 J 39 39y an quot in con ict with each other So in addition to the competing storylines there are competing and con icting notions on defining the Jew V Employing multiple voices Katchor raises one of the book s central questions What does it mean to be a Jew We see this in 0 Major Noah s attempts to establish a new promised land in the new world 0 The ways that Nathan Kishon as well as others defines himself both within and against Jewish customs and traditions e g his role as a shoykhet his wearing of a sheet his time in Ararat and then in New A latus Ketzelbourd being taken for an rare animal shot then mounted and displayed in Hiram s Museum Daizy s attempts to capture Jewishness so that he can play the role of Major Ham Major Noah Mr Marah s fascination with eshings a garment that wipes ou or masks any distinguishing features and leaves the individual with the appearance of being naked and might this masking be similar to the kind of persona donned in a staged drama Yosl Feinbroyt s employment of mysticism and onomatopoeia meaningsound or word Hershel Goulbat s use of Native Americans as members of the lost tribe Prof Solidus s antiSemitic attempts to de ne Jews Enoch Letushim s direct links to the Holy Land with his carrying of the soil Daizy s conversation with Gergel about the Americanization of the Jew p 58 But one of the most signi cant references to Jewishness comes through the gure of the man in the rubber suit Vervel Kunzo We see him at the very beginning of the novel and then again at the very end in fact he literally has the nal word thereby serving the function of a framing device that puts the novel into perspective He makes an observation on page 85 that in many ways could stand as the theme of the novel Like all social beings the Jew is subject to constant change and developmentia creature of his surroundings It is this subtle ongoing metamorphosis that we endeavor to study This speech emphasizes the dynamic character of Jewish identity and by association any ethnic identity it s always evolving and assuming multiple forms it s never xed or static it s nonessential and dependent on context It s also signi cant to note that Kunzo wears a rubber suit one that masks any physical identity especially as it might apply to ethnicity He also discusses on page 86 the importance of the eshings and beaver pelts both outer skins that cover that which lies underneath Directly associate this with identity ethnic or otherwise At the very end of the novel Kunzo is wading out into the water and reading an old pamphlet on Jewish identity that references Hebrew origins facsimile resemblances counterfeited people and minds that are rendered inaccessible ideas that suggest the impossibility of ultimately xing or essentializing Jewish identity gt One way that Katchor s novel foregrounds ethnic identity is through geographical space In considering place and ethnic identity With some ethnic identitiesieg Asian American Native American African Americanithe rst part of the hyphenated label designates some sort of geographic space Think in terms of what we read in Blood of Palomar and Hispanic American identity Much of the novel dealt with a particular community in a particular place Jewish American doesn t have a spatial connotation at least in the same way In other words ethnic identity isn t necessarily linked to a general space further problematizing any speci c de nition of Jewishness The Jews are historically diasporic people living outside their home nation Israel and de ning themselves de ning Jewishness outside of that geographic space On the other hand Katchor calls his novel The Jew of New York a title that indeed designates geographic space And in the United States New York more than any other American city is associated with Jewish identity and Jewish culture This being the case might Katchor be questioning our very notions of de ning ethnic or Jewish identity within the context of nation and place 0 We have an example of this in the gure of Nathan Kishon I He had once been a kosher butcher living with the Jewish community of Ararat a new promised land but later he becomes an outcast living in the wilderness literally I What is more when returns from the wilderness and begins residing in New York he refuses to sleep indoors instead preferring the ground outside So even in the midst of living in a kind of ethnic home space if we see New York as a city associated with the Jews he nonetheless prefers sleeping in the wild 0 Another example of the significance of space and Jewish identity comes in the figure of Vervel Kunzo It is no accident that the character who is most closely linked to the indefinability of the Jew comes from Berlin another city historically associated with Jews well outside of New York gt The graphic novel is very metafzctz39onal in nature made up of stories about stories which in many ways concerned with the act of storytelling eg the graphic novel The Jew of New York being about the play The Jew of New York Nathan Kishon telling his story of meeting Ketzelbourd Hershel Goulbat s account of teaching Hebrew to Indians the interspersed posters supplementing the narratives within the graphic novel gt The Jew ofNew York also is a very complex text in terms of narrative The novel is made up of narratives interlinked within or framed within other narratives At times we find a series of metanarratz39ves or framed narratives where one story is told within the context of another story This too is metafzctz39onal in that it suggests how stories are told how we construct our narratives And if we define ourselves through our narrativesiand I believe that we doithen might not the book also be telling us something about the way we construct identity in this case ethnic identity The novel makes us question the very notion of narrative in that it mixes non ah39egetz39c elements those things that aren t part of the story proper within diagetz39c text that which makes up the story 0 O The book s front matter for instance its title page and its copyright page is intermingled with elements of the story properieg the image of Nathan Kishon s canal boat ticket on the title page an iconic listing of characters underneath the copyright symbol and Library of Congress information The inside front and back covers contain illustrations referring directly to the narrative itself with images and text describing the Lake Erie SodaWater Company providing supplemental information to Francis Oriole s endeavor The various posters pamphlets and playbills that are dispersed throughout the novel are both outside of the story and at the same time directly linked to the events in the story By intermingling diegetic and nondiegetic material in such a convoluted might Katchor be indirectly or directly be questioning our definitions of narrative