The following is excerpted from a talk I gave at the ACLA’s 2014 Conference in New York.
Although the reaches of American and European Modernism most certainly extended to the Jewish-American urbanites of the inter-bellum period, little mainstream critical attention outside has been paid to these Yiddish-writing Modernists. Modernism, for its part, historically has had no need to extend its reaches to so-called “minor” literatures, and has instead favored an opposite
approach to pluralist inclusivity. The modernist milieu—that behemoth of a movement—was one of manifestos, of splintering, and division. Although they shared many interests in common, the movements of Vorticism, Objectivism, Surrealism, Dadism, Futurism, and Imagism all situated themselves as distinct entities uniquely capable of pushing poetry into the 20st Century. The Inzikhistn were no exception. In their desire to break away from both their Jewish-American forefathers and contemporary American counterparts, they produced a body of work and literary criticism that celebrated its movement’s singularity.
In this paper, I situate the Yiddish movement of Inzikhism or “Introspectivism” within the broader context of Anglo-American Modernism. In particular, I shall link the secular, self-conscious introspectivism of the In zikh writers generally—and Jacob Glatstein’s work specifically—with Henri Bergson’s philosophies of a concurrent spiritual and physical world. In both cases, the self is constructed through various confluences of collective and individual memory; additionally, l’étendu, or calendar time, is seen as part and partial of more ethereal le durée, or internal time. In seeking to understand Jewish Modernism of the inter-bellum period, I aim to explore the In zikh project of “poetic musicality, free and non-repetitive, but also strongly felt” (Miron 175). Moreover, I aim to show that a reliance on metaphors of vision and cinematic structure help to structure the both Inzikhistn and the American Imagists. I argue that the minority status of the Inzikhistn, as well as the transnational nature of the Imagist poets, allows for a play on the word “vision”: Both of these movements have utilized vocabulary of sight to suggest a more intangible second sight that borders on mystical vision. Continue reading