Professor of American Literature & Jewish Studies
Professor Rubinstein's teaching and research interests range across American literature and culture, with a particular focus on ethnicity and immigration, as well as Jewish and Yiddish literatures. She serves on the editorial board of Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History and co-edited Arguing the Modern Jewish Canon: Essays on Literature and Culture in Honor of Ruth R. Wisse (Harvard University Press, 2008). Her work has appeared in American Quarterlyand Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, and she is the author of Members of the Tribe: Native America in the Jewish Imagination (Wayne State University Press, 2010).
Rachel Rubinstein is currently the dean of academic support and advising.
This course seeks to uncover the roots of today's debates about immigration and American identity in the interactions between Jewish immigrants of the turn of the 20th century and other immigrant and ethno-racial communities in the United States in the context of popular culture and literature. We will begin with debates about race, ethnicity and immigration in the nineteenth century as they took shape in relation to a rapidly modernizing American cultural landscape. We will progress through the twentieth century with particular attention to popular film, theater, literature, music, and other cultural products, examining how they represent the dynamics of assimilation vs. pluralism, intermarriage and secularization, racial and ethnic representations and performance, cross-cultural alliances and ruptures. This is a relatively intensive reading and writing course. The semester will culminate in a large-scale independent project.
This course investigates the imaginative, mythic, historical, and aesthetic meanings of "America," from its earliest incarnations through the mid-nineteenth century, and the ways in which the "national imaginary" has continually been challenged, shaped and pressured by the presence of radical and marginal groups and individuals. We will read both major and unfamiliar works of the colonial, revolutionary, early republic and antebellum years, and examine how these works embody, envision, revise, and respond to central concepts and tropes of national purpose and identity. Our conversations will address the spiritual and religious underpinnings of American nationhood; exploration, conquest, and nature; notions of individualism, progress, improvement, and success; race, ethnicity, class, and gender; alternative nationalisms and communities. This course is ideal for students seeking to ground and fortify their study of nineteenth and twentieth century American literature, history and culture.