Fall 2024


12:00 pm - 2:45 pm

CompLit 119/JEWISHST 106: Mainstream Jews

Saul Zaritt

Why is it that Jews and discussions of Jewishness appear with such frequency and with such prominence in American culture of the twentieth and the twenty-first century? One can often hear the claim that Hollywood is “owned by Jews.” Many call attention to the number of Jews involved in comics and graphic novels. The State of Israel, and its definition of Judaism, has become an important touchstone in American politics, while antisemitic dog whistles have become commonplace in contemporary political discourse. Contemporary left-wing activists often refer to the legacies—contested or otherwise—of Jewish American labor politics of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. What can we make of these intersecting and surprising references to Jews/Judaism/Jewishness in the current American moment? This seminar discusses the ways that images of the Jew—philosemitic, antisemitic, and everything in between—recur in the American mainstream. Through analysis of film, television, music, comics, and other mass media, we will track the multiple and contradictory portrayals of Jewishness in the popular American imagination.

In Person