The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Chaim Potok

Chaim Potok

Confronting Modernity Through the Lens of Tradition Edited by Daniel Walden
  • Copyright: 2013
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 208 pages
  • Illustrations: 2 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-05981-5
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-05982-2
“Daniel Walden has done American literature an uncommon and impressive service. This masterful collection will stand as a forerunner to further significant criticism, and as an inspiration.”
“Daniel Walden’s Chaim Potok: Confronting Modernity Through the Lens of Tradition is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the crucial role played by Chaim Potok’s novels in examining the clash between modernity and faith. This skillfully edited work contains both critical essays and personal reflections by leading Potok experts. The novelist was a personal friend of Walden’s, and this volume can be seen as the editor's memorial to the late writer.”
“Daniel Walden caps his distinguished career as a scholar, writer, editor, and esteemed pioneer in American Jewish literary studies with this sensitive and illuminating study of a side of American Jewish life not often, until recently, described in such lovely and moving prose as Potok’s. Walden does welcome justice to Potok’s originality and importance, and I highly recommend this book to all interested in Jewish American and American writing generally.”
“I can think of nobody better than Daniel Walden to edit this outstanding collection of essays about the late writer Chaim Potok. As the founding editor of Studies in American Jewish Literature, Walden has been a shaping hand in the direction of American Jewish literary study. Chaim Potok was a popular writer during his lifetime; this collection makes a persuasive case that he is also an important one.”
“In his previous work on Chaim Potok (Conversations with Chaim Potok, Chaim Potok and Jewish-American Culture), Daniel Walden has shown himself to be the go-to resource on the writer and his cultural impact. Now, in Chaim Potok: Confronting Modernity Through the Lens of Tradition, Walden has once again demonstrated his deft understanding of the subject. Pulling together an impressive array of contributors and working with some of the most prominent Jewish American literary scholars today, Walden presents us with a vast tapestry displaying the many hues of Potok's narrative worlds. With essays concerning modernity and tradition, the Torah and the Kabbalah, and myth and history, Walden's collection stands as the text by which all subsequent studies will now be judged.”
“A truly fine treatment by Daniel Walden, one of the founding figures in Jewish American literary criticism, this volume brings new historical and literary attention to Chaim Potok. Essays draw on new biographical and manuscript materials to provide fresh, critical treatments of Potok’s work during a major sociocultural revaluation of mid-twentieth-century American culture. This is an important book about a beloved and continuously read twentieth-century Jewish American writer.”
“These critical essays and personal reflections on Potok’s work and life will go far in solidifying his reputation as a leading American writer of fiction.”

Chaim Potok was a world-class writer and scholar, a Conservative Jew who wrote from and about his tradition and the conflicts between observance and acculturation. With a plain, straightforward style, his novels were set against the moral, spiritual, and intellectual currents of the twentieth century. This collection aims to widen the lens through which we read Chaim Potok and to establish him as an authentic American writer who created unforgettable characters forging American identities for themselves while retaining their Jewish nature. The essays illuminate the central struggle in Potok’s novels, which results from a profound desire to reconcile the appeal of modernity with the pull of traditional Judaism. The volume includes a memoir by Adena Potok and ends with Chaim Potok’s “My Life as a Writer,” a speech he gave at Penn State in 1982.

Aside from the editor, the contributors are Victoria Aarons, Nathan P. Devir, Jane Eisner, Susanne Klingenstein, S. Lillian Kremer, Jessica Lang, Sanford E. Marovitz, Kathryn McClymond, Hugh Nissenson, Adena Potok, and Jonathan Rosen.

Daniel Walden is Professor Emeritus of American Studies, English, and Comparative Literature at The Pennsylvania State University. He founded the Jewish Studies Program at Penn State as well as the journal Studies in American Jewish Literature.




Daniel Walden

Part 1 The Novels

1 The Chosen: Defining American Judaism

Kathryn McClymond

2 The Three-Pronged Dialectic: Understanding Conflict in Potok’s Early Fiction

Jessica Lang

3 Guardians of the Torah: Ambiguity and Antagonism in The Promise

Victoria Aarons

4 Daedalus Redeemed: Asher Lev’s Journey from Rebellion to Rapprochement

S. Lillian Kremer

5 Davita’s Harp: The Silence of Violence and the Limits of the Imagination

Susanne Klingenstein

6 The Book of Lights: A Book of Choices

Sanford E. Marovitz

7 History and Responsibility: An Assessment of Potok’s “Non-Jewish” I Am the Clay

Nathan P. Devir

Part 2 Looking Back: Memories of Potok

8 Choosing the Chosen: A Reappraisal of The Chosen

Hugh Nissenson

9 Chaim Potok: A Zwischenmensch (“Between Person”) in the Cultures

Daniel Walden

10 Chaim Potok and the Question of Jewish Writing

Jonathan Rosen

11 Chaim Potok: A Literary Biography

Adena Potok

12 Chaim Potok Is No Longer With Us, but His Lessons Remain

Jane Eisner

13 Adena Potok on I Am the Clay

Nathan P. Devir

14 Chaim Potok: My Life as a Writer

Chaim Potok



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