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In the early and mid twentieth century, as social and political movements fractioned Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, Isaac Bashevis Singer turned with singular focus to “the idols” of love and literature. Exploring the changing face of Jewish life through storytelling, he encountered the same questions of spiritual and social transformation, of continuity and dissolution at the center of political debate.
This project asks how morality and ethics function in the context of cataclysm in Singer’s work. By parsing the author’s personal history recorded in two autobiographies, "In My Father’s Court" and "Love and Exile," and his novels "Enemies, a Love Story" and "Satan in Goray" among others, it seeks to understand the building of Singer’s own “house of justice” (a translation of “Beth Din,” the institution of the rabbinical court his father kept from the family home). Noting important departures from and dependence on principles of Jewish ethics, the project makes room for a conception of morality fitted less to religious observance or political theory than to the valuation of literature itself; it views Singer’s writing not primarily as a reconstruction of the past but as engagement with the existential urgency of his time and ours.
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Schiffer, Mia Rachel, "“A Palace on a Mountaintop”: Building Isaac Bashevis Singer’s House of Justice" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 319.
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