College Bound

The Pursuit of Education in Jewish American Literature, 1896-1944

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Dan Shiffman
SUNY Series in Contemporary Jewish Literature and Culture
  • Albany, NY: 
    State University of New York Press
    , November
     224 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Barbara Rader forthcoming.


Argues that first- and second-generation Jewish American writers had an ambivalent relationship with educational success.

Jewish American immigrants and their children have been stereotyped as exceptional educational achievers, with attendance at prestigious universities leading directly to professional success. In College Bound, Dan Shiffman uses literary accounts to show that American Jews’ relationship with education was in fact far more complex. Jews expected book learning to bring personal fulfillment and self-transformation, but the reality of public schools and universities often fell short. Shiffman examines a wide range of novels and autobiographies by first- and second-generation writers, including Abraham Cahan, Mary Antin, Anzia Yezierska, Elizabeth Gertrude Stern, Ludwig Lewisohn, Marcus Eli Ravage, Lionel Trilling, and Leo Rosten. Their visions of learning as a process of critical questioning—enlivening the mind, interrogating cultural standards, and confronting social injustices—present a valuable challenge to today’s emphasis on narrowly measurable outcomes of student achievement.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Dan Shiffman teaches secondary English at the International School of Hamburg and is the author of Rooting Multiculturalism: The Work of Louis Adamic.

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