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Matrilineal Dissent: Women Writers and Jewish American Literary Culture


Edited by Annie Atura Bushnell, Lori Harrison-Kahan, and Ashley Walters

Bridging literary studies and cultural history, this edited volume examines Jewish women writers’ wide-ranging contributions to American literary culture from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Matrilineal Dissent features innovative considerations of contemporary autofiction, graphic narratives, and novels by Mizrahi writers as well as middlebrow, Progressive Era, and second-wave feminist literature. Authors discussed herein—such as Roz Chast, Erica Jong, Annie Nathan Meyer, and Adrienne Rich—challenge monolithic representations of Jewishness and gender while imagining radical alternatives.

By tracing a matrilineal literary history, this book dissents from readers and critics who continue to describe women’s contributions as mere commentaries on and correctives to male-dominated canons. Simultaneously, this volume troubles the politics of inheritance, continuity, and lineage to underscore the ways that literary traditions—like Jewishness and gender—are mutually constitutive and continually in flux.

Collectively, contributors reframe Jewish American literary history through feminist approaches that have revolutionized the field, from intersectionality and the #MeToo movement to queer theory and disability studies. Examining both canonical and lesser-known texts, this collection asks: what happens to conventional understandings of Jewish American literature when we center women’s writing and acknowledge women as dominant players in Jewish cultural production?


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