Professor Ruth Wisse
2009, 2013 Student Summer Seminar: Jewish Thought and Enduring Human Questions
Ruth Wisse (Harvard University) undertook the study of literature because it seemed to offer more information and experience than any other branch of knowledge. She moved from English into Yiddish and Comparative Literature for similar reasons. Yiddish might appear to be a minor literature, written as it is in the vernacular of a small people, the Jews, in only one of their several languages, and only since about the sixteenth century. Yet because Yiddish literature registers the personal and collective experience of much of European Jewry, and given that European Jews have been all too much at the center of modern history, Yiddish literature turns out to be exceptionally revealing, dramatic, original, and important. Its study has led Professor Wisse from an initial interest in The Shlemiel as A Modern Hero to a revised investigation of "the liberal betrayal of the Jews," which is the subtitle of her latest book If I Am Not for Myself . In between she wrote A Little Love in Big Manhattan about two Yiddish poets in America, and edited a number of anthologies of Yiddish prose and poetry in translation.