Finalist for the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, American Jewish Studies For centuries, Jews were one of the few European cultures without any official public theatrical tradition. Yet in the modern era, Jews were among the most important creators of popular theater and film-especially in America. Why?
In Theatrical Liberalism, Andrea Most illustrates how
American Jews used the theatre and other media to navigate their encounters
with modern culture, politics, religion, and identity,
negotiating a position for themselves within and alongside Protestant American
liberalism by reimagining key aspects of traditional Judaism as
theatrical. Discussing works as diverse as the Hebrew Bible, The
Jazz Singer, and Death of a Salesman-among many others-Most situates American
popular culture in the multiple religious traditions that informed the
worldviews of its practitioners.
Offering a comprehensive history of the role of Judaism in the
creation of American entertainment, Theatrical Liberalism re-examines the distinction between the secular and the religious in both Jewish and American contexts, providing a new way of understanding Jewish liberalism and its place in a pluralist society. With extensive scholarship and compelling evidence, Theatrical Liberalism shows how the Jewish worldview that permeates American culture has reached far beyond the Jews who created it.
Andrea Most is Associate Professor of American Literature and Jewish Studies in the Department of English at the University of Toronto. Her first book, Making Americans: Jews and the Broadway Musical, won the 2005 Kurt Weill Prize for the Best Book on Musical Theatre.
ContentsAcknowledgments ixSetting the Stage 11. Jews, Theatricality, and Modernity 152. The Birth of Theatrical Liberalism 393. Theatrical Liberalism under Attack 884. The Theatricality of Everyday Life 1415. Theatricality and Idolatry 1646. I Am a Theater 201Curtain Call 241Notes 247Credits 275Index 281About the Author 293