Nev­er Bet­ter!: The Mod­ern Jew­ish Picaresque

Miri­am Udel
  • From the Publisher
December 22, 2016

Nev­er Bet­ter! con­cerns the polit (“fugi­tive”), a lit­er­ary type-an unheroic hero”-who is rather like the picaro (“rogue”) from whom the Picaresque genre takes its name. Focus­ing pri­mar­i­ly, but not exclu­sive­ly, on Yid­dish lit­er­a­ture, Udel puts that lit­er­a­ture into pro­duc­tive con­ver­sa­tion with Euro­pean and Amer­i­can texts, as well as crit­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal sources. If the bil­dungsro­man is the nov­el form that is most clear­ly asso­ci­at­ed with nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry Euro­pean nov­els, the polit is the fig­ure more appro­pri­ate for the post-Jew­ish Enlight­en­ment era, and espe­cial­ly its cri­tique of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. More than a study of a par­tic­u­lar genre or lit­er­ary type, Udel’s work con­sid­ers what may hap­pen when a minor­i­ty author or a minor lit­er­a­ture” (in the Deleuze-Guat­tari sense, where a minor­i­ty writer posi­tions himself/​herself as a sort of stranger with­in his own [major] lan­guage”) adopts what Udel refers to as the picaresque sen­si­bil­i­ty. She exam­ines how embed­ded such writ­ers may be with­in the broad­er nation­al, lit­er­ary, and lin­guis­tic con­texts in which they find them­selves, and also how they inter­rupt, counter, and some­times under­mine those contexts.

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