Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Newman, Amy

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of English


This study examines the lives and fictional works of five Jewish-American women writers of the twentieth century within the complex context of cultural alienation. Authors Anzia Yezierska, Dorothy Parker, Grace Paley, Cynthia Ozick, and Marge Piercy are each featured in separate chapters that examine how personal experiences of estrangement weave through and influence their texts. As a result of this dissertation’s scrutiny, meaningful connections emerge between these diverse Jewish women authors and the transformation of painful struggles into profound journeys to seek belonging. Through their works’ literal and figurative pilgrimages to reach an ultimate homeland, all five writers creatively illustrate a recurring theme that explores the need to secure refuge within an intolerant society. Even with the authors’ varied Judaic backgrounds, these Jewish women writers consistently integrate similar quests for acceptance and efforts to heal fractured identities into their collective fiction. Because the five authors offer a unified literary approach to cultural desolation that expresses a desire to find sanctuary, this dissertation argues that a specific subgenre of fiction by Jewish women should be developed within American literature. At this time, such texts remain disconnected in the canon, where no framework exists to unite the crucial nature of Jewish women writers’ thematic artistry for the benefit of mainstream readers. However, a well-defined subgenre would resolve this omission to recognize the extraordinary works written by Jewish women and their inventive imaginings of a homeland that shields against societal estrangement. Consequently, the five authors of this study as well as future Jewish-American women writers could achieve the acknowledgment and admiration that they deserve for authentically articulating the lived experience of Judaic womanhood.


442 pages




Northern Illinois University

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