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The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture (Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music and Art) [Kindle Edition]

Warren Hoffman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Tony Kushner's award-winning epic play Angels in America was remarkable not only for its sensitive engagement of Jewish- American and gay culture but also for bringing these themes to a mainstream audience. While the play represented a watershed in American theater and culture, it belies a hundred years of previous attention to queer Jewish identity in twentieth-century American literature, drama, and film. In The Passing Game, Warren Hoffman sheds light on this long history, taking up both Yiddish and English narratives that explore the tensions among Jewish identity, queer sexuality, performance, and American citizenship.


With fresh insight Hoffman examines the 1907 Yiddish play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch, the cross-dressing films of Yiddish actress Molly Picon, and several short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. He also analyzes the English-language novels The Rise of David Levinsky (Abraham Cahan), Wasteland (Jo Sinclair), and Portnoy's Complaint (Phillip Roth). Hoffman highlights the ways in which the characters in these canonical texts attempt to "pass" as white, straight, and American in the early and mid-twentieth century. This pioneering work is a welcome contribution to the study of Jewish American literature and culture.


Editorial Reviews

Review

His probing readings not only bring fresh insights to these works, but also invite readers to rethink how gender and sexuality are engaged, even as they are disguised or obscured, in modern Jewish culture generally. -- Jeffrey Shandler, author of Adventures in Yiddishland

"While Jewish-American culture of the late 20th century often rejected (or merely ignored) LGBT culture, according to Warren Hoffman the first half of the century was more forgiving. In his new book...[Hoffman] explores queer Jewish identity in 20th century American literature, drama and film." --Philadelphia Gay News

"Hoffman has written a wonderful book that asks important questions about assimilation, identity, gender, and the queering of the Jewish American experience. He digs deeply into the texts and comes up with hiidden truths that are finally brought into the light." -The Gay & Lesbian Review --The Gay & Lesbian Review

"A great read for anyone examining Jewish work on page, stage or screen in America - or anyone who ever wondered, deep down, if there wasn't something just a bit...queer about Jewish culture in America." Lilith Magazine --Lilith Magazine

"This book is highly recommended for scholarly collections, and will also find an audience in public, community, and synagogue libraries serving GLBT patrons." Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter --Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

About the Author

Warren Hoffman teaches literature at Temple University, where he works primarily on Jewish American literature and musical theater. He is the director of Arts and Culture Programming for the Gershman Y in Philadelphia.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2323 KB
  • Print Length: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Syracuse Univ Pr (Sd); 1 edition (May 1, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004E0Z44E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,119 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Importance of Being Gay, Jewish, and American April 15, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed reading THE PASSING GAME by Warren Hoffman. This excellently written study explores in five chapters, the issue of passing as white, staight and American in the United States from the Gay Jewish perspective. Mr. Hoffman's great analytical skills makes this exploration of 20th century Gay and Lesbian Jewish culture's important contributions to America's national culture in literature, film, and especially drama quite fascinating. His first chapter on the 1907 Sholem Asch play GOD OF VENGEANCE is a marvel. Titled "Lost in Translation, or the Epistemology of Sholem Asch's Got fun nekome," this is an analysis of how the play was first received in 1907 and then in a 1923 revival which resulted in the revival cast being arrested for performing an "immoral drama." The Yiddish language was silent about homosexuality. Noting the shift in sexual thinking in at least New York city between 1907 and 1923, the focus here is on the lack of a vocabulary in the Yiddish language for homosexuality at the time of the play's first production, and how, by 1923, the English language influenced Jewish culture by giving Jewish Americans a vocabulary and a conceptual system to identify homosexuals and lesbians not available in Yiddish. What words meant and when they meant it, as well as their consequences, makes the chapter totally facinating. The other chapters on Abraham Cahan's THE RISE OF DAVID LEVINSKY, Jo Sinclair's WASTELAND, Philip Roth's PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, and the delightful Molly Picon all explore the humanity of both Jews and Gays. The chapter on Molly Picon and her cross-dressing films is especially delightful. It was equally delightful to find some of the musical numbers discussed in this chapter on YOU TUBE. Throughout this book, Mr. Read more ›
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have heard the author speak at a conference and thought this topic would be boring. Rather, it was fascinating and invigorating. He really had me thinking and challenging my own ideas and attitudes toward the Arts.
He gives a historical approach, a creative approach, a practical approach, a relatable approach and has brought tremendous insights into this topic. He makes you think!
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More About the Author

Warren Hoffman is the Associate Director of Community Programming for the Center of Jewish Life and Learning at Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Prior to that, he served over five years as the Senior Director of Programming at the Gershman Y where he innovated numerous new programs and was named the "next wave" of Jewish culture by the Jewish Exponent. In the world of theater, Warren was the literary manager and dramaturg for Philadelphia Theatre Company where he dramaturged multiple world premieres by writers including Terrence McNally, Chris Durang, and Bill Irwin. In New York, Hoffman was the Associate Artistic Director of Jewish Repertory Theatre and was a writer and reviewer for TalkinBroadway.com where he covered the Off-Broadway and cabaret scene. In addition to working in the theater community, Hoffman holds a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of California-Santa Cruz. He earned rave reviews for his book The Passing Game: Queering Jewish American Culture published by Syracuse University Press. His most recent book is The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical. Warren is also a playwright and is currently a Core Writer with InterAct Theatre Company.

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