Foto: Matthias Friel
The Yiddish term for town, shtetl commonly refers to small market towns in pre–World War II Eastern Europe with a large Yiddish-speaking Jewish population. How does such an unassuming word come to loom so large in modern Jewish culture, with a proliferation of uses and connotations?
The shtetl was defined by interlocking networks of economic and social relationships: the interaction of Jews and peasants in the market, the coming together of Jews for essential communal and religious functions, and, in more recent times, the increasingly vital relationship between the shtetl and its emigrants abroad. Shtetls developed in the territories of the old Polish Commonwealth, where the nobility encouraged Jews to move onto estates in order to stimulate economic development. These new towns—all centered on a market square—reflected an emerging symbiosis of nobles, Jews, and the surrounding peasantry.
In the post-Holocaust era, the shtetl looms large in public culture as the epitome of a bygone traditional Jewish communal life. People now encounter the Jewish history of these towns through an array of cultural practices, including fiction, documentary photography, film, memoirs, art, heritage tourism, and political activism. At the same time, the shtetl attracts growing scholarly interest, as historians, social scientists, literary critics, and others seek to understand both the complex reality of life in provincial towns and the nature of its wide-ranging remembrance.
This seminar will over a holistic approach to the microcosm of the shtetl and its links with the world outside and shtet’s ”afterlife” following the Holocaust. The course will begin with the origins of the shtetl in early modern era, while the central focus will be placed on 19th and 20th century. We will speak of the common misleading stereotype of a shtetl as a harmonious community, about gender roles in the shtetl, Jewish and non-Jewish relations and shtetl transformation which it experienced from the end of the 19th century. A substantial part of the course will be devoted to the ”imagined shtetl” that is shtetl which became a literary and cultural construct. We will read fragments of Sholem Aleichem’s and Y.L. Peretz works featuring the shtetl, as well as speak of how the shtetl was re-imagined in the Jewish culture after the Holocaust.
Gennady Estraikh and Mikhail Krutikov, eds., The Shtetl: Image and Reality (Oxford, 2000)
Dan Miron, The Image of the Shtetl and Other Studies of Modern Jewish Literary Imagination (Syracuse, 2000)
Yehonen Petrowsky-Shtern, The Golden Age Shtetl. A New History of Jewish Life in East Europe (Princeton 2014)
Jeffrey Shanlder, Shtetl. A Vernacular History (Rutgers 2014)
Testat: Essay, 8-Seiten
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