At a provocatively titled 2009 MLA roundtable, Josh Lambert and Benjamin Schreier were among those to ask and respond to the question, “Does the English Department Have a Jewish Problem?” As Lambert, the panel’s organizer, noted at the time, American Jewish literary and cultural productions are often overshadowed by the study of Holocaust literature, while Jewish American literature has fallen outside the scope of American ethnic studies. Their books continue that discussion’s focus on what kind of future Jewish American literary studies might be able to forge for itself. While Lambert errs on the side of the term now preferred in Jewish studies—American Jewish literature—both works read their subject as a subset of American literature, the Jewish American literature Schreier pointedly insists on.

Schreier’s The Impossible Jew argues against a historicist Jewish American literary scholarship shaped by essentialist assumptions about...

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