Brett Ashley Kaplan. Jewish Anxiety and the Novels of Philip Roth

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According to Kaplan, Roth's texts pivot on the conviction that "Jewish anxiety stems not only from fear of victimization but also from fear of perpetration" (1). Roth's American Jews do not want to identify with their parents' generation of Eastern European victims of anti-Semitism in general and particularly of the Holocaust because they sense that American popular culture is receptive to Jews even when it retains a certain antagonism against Jews. [...]particularly frightening is the temptation to identify with the oppressor and perpetrate anti-black, anti- Arab, or sexist actions in order to feel that even if one is a Jew one can still be a dominant power with whom the disempowered other must reckon within the politics of the American racial and gender divide and in view of the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict where Israelis are seen as empowered Jews who are able to suppress the Palestinians Right from the beginning, according to Kaplan, "Goodbye, Columbus" complicates the issues of race and economy. Kaplan relates Sabbath's anxiety regarding death and sex to Freud's study of the uncanny and in this sense she suggests that his traumatic behavior concerns the mother, the home, and the hearth: "'this uncanny is in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression'" (qtd. in Kaplan 83).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalPhilip Roth Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


  • Roth, Philip


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