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Celebrating Jewish-American Writers

Rebecca Gratz manuscript, 1827
Courtesy of The Leonard L. Milberg '53
Collection of Jewish American Writers

A new exhibition at Princeton University’s Firestone Library celebrates the lives and works of Jewish-American writers from Arthur Miller and Isaac Bashevis Singer to Susan Sontag and Hannah Arendt. Running from October 22 to April 21, 2002, “Not For Myself Alone: Celebrating Jewish-American Writers” draws together poetry, fiction, drama, essays, artwork, and correspondence from some 75 men and women who have enriched American culture across two centuries. The exhibition is open to the public without charge Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and from noon to 5:00 p.m. on weekends.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Princeton University Library, the exhibition features selected works from the Leonard L. Milberg Collection of Jewish-American Writers in Honor of Harold T. Shapiro, Princeton University’s president from 1988 to 2001. The exhibition includes Yiddish as well as English-language writers and embraces both the famous and obscure. Visitors will encounter nineteenth-century writer Rebecca Gratz, who served as the model for the character of Rebecca in Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe, as well as Emma Lazarus, whose poem, “The New Colossus,” is engraved on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. Twentieth-century writers are also well represented, including Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Norman Mailer, and Cynthia Ozick.

The exhibition documents the impact of Jewish-American writers on many spheres of American life, from the stage and cinema to journalism and academe. Jewish-American intellectuals such as Lionel Trilling, Philip Rahv of the Partisan Review, and Leslie Fiedler rub shoulders with artists such as William Walkowitz, Raphael Soyer, and Ben Shahn. The world of poetry is also highlighted, including such schools as the Jungn, the Inzikhistn, and the so-called sweatshop poets.

Photographic portraits of the writers and eight original caricatures by David Levine, coupled with a wide array of letters and manuscripts, complement the published works in the exhibition. These include such treasures as the first edition of Henry Roth’s novel, Call it Sleep, complete with its dust jacket.

Two major publications will accompany the exhibition. The first is a special issue of the Princeton University Library Chronicle, featuring 27 original essays and short stories and 46 original poems by and about Jewish-American writers. This 392-page issue also includes facsimiles of unpublished correspondence by such important literary figures as Saul Bellow, Stanley Kunitz, Norman Mailer, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, Lionel Trilling, Hannah Arendt, and Philip Roth. Of particular importance are two previously unpublished short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Copies may be purchased for $25 from the Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

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