"A great read for anyone examining Jewish work on page, stage or screen in America— or anyone who ever wondered, deep down, if there wasn’t something just a bit . . . queer about Jewish culture in America."—Lilith Magazine
"His probing readings not only bring fresh insights to these works, but also invite readers to rethink how gender and sexuality are engaged, even as they are disguised or obscured, in modern Jewish culture generally."—Jeffrey Shandler, author of Adventures in Yiddishland
"Hoffman expands the pioneering work of Sander Gilman, Ann Pellegrini, and Daniel Boyarin to the American scene, contributing as well an exploration of the epistemology of queer readings—how do readers ‘recognize’ homosexuality at different times and in different languages?"—Naomi Seidman, author of Faithful Renderings
Tony Kushner’s award-winning epic play Angels in America was remarkable not only for its sensitive engagement of Jewish-American and gay culture but also for bringing these themes to a mainstream audience. While the play represented a watershed in American theater and culture, it belies a hundred years of previous attention to queer Jewish identity in twentieth-century American literature, drama, and film. In The Passing Game, Warren Hoffman sheds light on this long history, taking up both Yiddish and English narratives that explore the tensions among Jewish identity, queer sexuality, performance, and American citizenship.
With fresh insight Hoffman examines the 1907 Yiddish play God of Vengeance by Sholem Asch, the cross-dressing films of Yiddish actress Molly Picon, and several short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. He also analyzes the English-language novels The Rise of David Levinsky (Abraham Cahan), Wasteland (Jo Sinclair), and Portnoy’s Complaint (Phillip Roth). Hoffman highlights the ways in which the characters in these canonical texts attempt to “pass” as white, straight, and American in the early and mid-twentieth century. This pioneering work is a welcome contribution to the study of Jewish American literature and culture.
Warren Hoffman teaches literature at Temple University, where he works primarily on Jewish American literature and musical theater. He is the director of Arts and Culture Programming for the Gershman Y in Philadelphia.
6 x 9, 224 pages, 10 black and white illustrations