Humor is the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity. In this lecture, as in her book of the same title, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking—as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that call Jewish humor into being—and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.
Ruth R. Wisse is the recently retired Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and professor of comparative literature at Harvard University. She is the author of The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Language and Culture, which won a National Jewish Book Award. Her other books include Jews and Power (Schocken) and The Schlemiel as Modern Hero. Wisse earned her PhD from McGill University in 1969 and has taught at McGill, Stanford, NYU, the Hebrew University, and Tel Aviv University.
Sponsor: Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program