A Rhetorical Conversation

Jewish Discourse in Modern Yiddish Literature

By (author) Jordan D. Finkin

Paperback - £25.95

Publication date:

15 December 2015

Length of book:

216 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271035376

This book is about Jewish language. The fact that Jews speak and write in distinctive ways is well known. (The journalist Mike Royko called it “Hebonics.”) These forms of expression actually draw from many sources and have been employed in popular culture from Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep to the novels of Saul Bellow to contemporary television. What has received less attention is what allowed these modern forms to flow from a rich body of Yiddish literature. This book fills that gap by exploring the language of modern Yiddish literature, addressing emblematically why Jews answer a question with a question. Through a series of case studies, A Rhetorical Conversation explores various distinctive aspects of Yiddish literature to explain the nature and importance of Jewish discourse: the way of speaking, writing, arguing, and thinking developed by Yiddish culture based on prolonged and intimate contact with traditional texts.

“In this brilliant new book, Jordan Finkin illuminates with great flair and precision the many ways in which Talmudic discourse has shaped Yiddish language and literature, from the smallest peculiarities of Yiddish syntax to its largest cultural and discursive formations—the orchestrated associative digressions, the argumentative style, the entire cultural world known as ‘derekh hashas,’ the way of the Talmud.”

—Naomi Seidman, University of California, Berkeley