An Inch or Two of Time

Time and Space in Jewish Modernisms

By (author) Jordan D. Finkin

Hardback - £59.95

Publication date:

22 June 2015

Length of book:

264 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271066417

In literary modernism, time and space are sometimes transformed from organizational categories into aesthetic objects, a transformation that can open dramatic metaphorical and creative possibilities. In An Inch or Two of Time, Jordan Finkin shows how Jewish modernists of the early twentieth century had a distinct perspective on this innovative metaphorical vocabulary. As members of a national-ethnic-religious community long denied the rights and privileges of self-determination, with a dramatically internalized sense of exile and landlessness, the Jewish writers at the core of this investigation reimagined their spatial and temporal orientation and embeddedness. They set as the fulcrum of their imagery the metaphorical power of time and space. Where non-Jewish writers might tend to view space as a given—an element of their own sense of belonging to a nation at home in a given territory—the Jewish writers discussed here spatialized time: they created an as-if space out of time, out of history. They understood their writing to function as a kind of organ of perception on its own. Jewish literature thus presents a particularly dynamic system for working out the implications of that understanding, and as such, this book argues, it is an indispensable part of the modern library.

An Inch or Two of Time sets forth a complex, elegant argument that recontextualizes eastern European modernist Yiddish and Hebrew poetry. Jordan Finkin’s book revisits concepts of Jewish collective memory and redefines the arc of Jewish history through the disruptive language and fragmented style and themes of interwar Jewish poetry. Finkin’s argument centers on the conjoined metaphors of time and space that are expressed and embedded in this poetry in the Jewish languages, Yiddish and Hebrew. Through them, Finkin addresses the broader issues of disrupted time and space, which informed all of modernist literature, art, and music during a period when these concepts were radically redefined in modernity at large. Finkin discovers the redefinition of ‘time and space, history and territory,’ which leads to new understandings of the idea of ‘nation’ and of literature. By reading key examples of Yiddish, Hebrew, and German modernist poetry through the conceptual prism of time and space, Finkin argues persuasively the degree to which these particular examples of Jewish modernist poetry can illuminate modernism in general.”

—Kathryn Hellerstein, University of Pennsylvania