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Ruth R. Wisse

Ruth R. Wisse recently retired from the Martin Peretz Professorship of Yiddish Literature at Harvard University. Her book No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (Princeton University Press) is now in paperback. Wisse is the creator of an online course about Daniel Deronda, George Eliot’s novel of Jewish nationalism, offered by the Tikvah Fund, where she is currently a distinguished senior fellow.

Bellow, Broadway Billy, and American Jewry

Bellow, Broadway Billy, and American Jewry

Ruth R. Wisse

As Mark Cohen’s new biography reminds us, “Broadway” Billy Rose was America’s master showman for a quarter of a century. When a friend told Saul Bellow how Rose had saved a fellow Jew from an Italian prison in 1939 but refused to speak with him afterward, Bellow knew he had a story.

The Jewish Critic and the Devil’s Point of View

Ruth R. Wisse

We have never met this Mendele before, but he expects us to trust him, appreciate his wit, catch his references, and share his attitudes. In a few deft lines, the author created a figure so democratic you don’t have to look up to him, so familiar you don’t have to fear him, and so appealing you won’t realize you’re being flogged.

No Joke

Ruth R. Wisse

Sigmund Freud loved Jewish jokes and for many years collected material for the study that would appear in 1905 as Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious. An excerpt from Ruth Wisse's new book No Joke: Making Jewish Humor.

Drowning in the Red Sea

Ruth R. Wisse

Gennady Estraikh said, "It is hardly an overstatement to define Yiddish literature of the 1920s as the most pro-Soviet literature in the world." When Arab riots killed 400 Jews in Palestine in late August 1929, the Yiddish communist press found itself torn between sympathy for the fallen and loyalty to the Revolution.