Popular authors such as Sholem Aleichem and Sholem Asch gained multilingual fame in the early decades of the twentieth century with short stories and novels that represented a world foreign to many Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike. But the first Yiddish writer to serve successfully as an interpreter and representative of this world was Morris Rosenfeld. Marc Miller examines the career of Rosenfeld, a key figure in the development of Yiddish literature, which was geared to American immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Rosenfeld’s early “sweatshop” poems were designed to foment discontent within capitalism among the working class.
Although he began his career as a protest poet, Rosenfeld—with almost no Yiddish literary tradition to draw upon—soon moved beyond the narrow, propagandistic dimensions of his early work to produce some of the most lasting poetry in the Yiddish language. He abandoned his calls-to-arms and shifted the focus of his poetry to the immigrant self. Instead of imploring workers to revolt against the upper classes, Rosenfeld began to lament the sad life of the immigrant worker who toiled and lived under brutal conditions. This new focus resulted in his widespread popularity that reached beyond his Yiddish-speaking, immigrant audience and earned him an international reputation as the representative of his time and place.
Table of Contents
1. The First Yiddish Best Seller
2. The Appropriation of Morris Rosenfeld
3. The Melodramatic and Sentimental Sweatshop
4. The "Simple" Language of the Sweatshop
5. The Jewish Representative
Appendix: Chronological List of Works by Morris Rosenfeld
About the Author
Marc Miller is assistant professor of Yiddish language, literature, and culture at Emory University, Atlanta.
Series: Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art
5.7 x 8.7, 200 pages