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Translating Yiddish Women: Fradl Shtok and the Modern Jewish Canon

Allison Schachter, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, Russian & East European Studies, Vanderbilt University

February 28, 2022 · 12:30 pm1:30 pm · Zoom

Program in Translation & Intercultural Communication and the Program in Judaic Studies

This talk offers an account of the vexed gendered politics of Yiddish translation in relationship to my own project of translating the modernist Yiddish writer, Fradl Shtok. Shtok was celebrated as a promising poet in the 1910s. However, when she published her only volume of short stories in 1919 it received mixed reviews. She soon disappeared from the literary scene, and was declared dead even as she continued to write in Yiddish. Women’s prose, as opposed to poetry, was often demeaned and overlooked by the male literary establishment, because, I argue, women’s posed a threat to male literary authority. Although women published widely in the Yiddish press, they did not receive scholarly attention and went untranslated. For example, the first major volume of Yiddish prose in English translation, A Treasury of Yiddish Stories (1954), did not include a single woman writer. In the talk, I will discuss the challenges and promises of translating Yiddish women writers, and making their projects legible. I will also meditate on the work of translation as a form of literary historical revision.

Allison Schachter is Associate Professor of English, Jewish Studies, and Russian and East European Studies. She is the author of Diasporic Modernisms: Hebrew and Yiddish Literatures in the Twentieth Century (Oxford 2013) and Women Writing Jewish Modernity, 1919-1939 (Northwestern, 2021). She is also the translator, with Jordan Finkin, of Fradl Shtok’s short stories, From the Jewish Provinces (Northwestern 2021).

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