Even scholars who share Wisse’s general approach to modern Jewish literature have often disagreed with Wisse’s “Canon” on one point or another. Brilliantly, then, the new festschrift presents not a series of bland tributes or an eccentric scattering of unconnected essays, but a gathering of 35 arguments for, against and with Wisse’s insights and claims. . . . Wisse welcomes such responses to her scholarship, regardless of whether she agrees with them: She herself “lobbied” for argument as the motif of the festschrift, the book’s editors report, and from the start she saw her canon-making project as “open-ended,” and “as a way of inviting others to continue the discussion” of modern Jewish literature.Some good lessons there for many, in many fields.
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Indeed, it seems that Wisse, more than anyone else, is the contemporary literary authority whom graduate students and younger scholars of Jewish literature feel the need to challenge, in the hopes of earning a place alongside her in the field. To her credit, Wisse encourages such dissension and debate as contributions to the conversation that constitutes modern Jewish culture; I have never heard any of Wisse’s students complain that she has imposed her political ideology or literary approach on them, or that she has been disrespectful of views that contradict her own.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
New Festschrift Honors Ruth Wisse
Yet another case in which the intellectual achievements of Hampshire College faculty make news but are crowded out by political grandstanding of other members of the community.
Congratulations to my Hampshire colleague and co-teacher Rachel Rubinstein and her husband, Smith College professor Justin Cammy, on the publication of a Festschrift in honor of their provocative teacher, critic Ruth Wisse.
The Forward writes: