The Sholem Aleichem Conference

by timchatman

The Highs and Lows of Sholem Aleichem:  Yiddish Literature and the Pursuit of Popular Writing

November 12-13, 2017

The Pyle Center, Rooms 325 & 326

702 Langdon St., Madison, WI

A century after his death, Sholem Aleichem still captures the imagination. The man behind Fiddler on the Roof, he introduced work that has left an indelible imprint on American culture. But how are we to understand the legacy of this artist? Was he a writer for the masses or a stylist of the highest literary order? And what is at stake in categorizing his literary legacy? Bringing together scholars, journalists, and fiction writers, this conference will reassess Sholem Aleichem’s literary reception and remap the boundaries of popular Yiddish culture.

Sunday, November 12


Welcome: The Highs and Lows of Sholem Aleichem

Opening remarks by Sunny Yudkoff (UW-Madison)


Sholem Aleichem and the Question of Popular Writing

Introduction by Tony Michels (UW-Madison)

Mikhail Krutikov (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), “Please Tickle Your Muse a Little Bit”: Sholem Aleichem and the Anxiety of Yiddish

Alyssa Quint (YIVO), Sholem Aleichem, Avrom Goldfaden, and the (Re)invention of a Yiddish Theater Audience

Jeffrey Shandler (Rutgers University), Do ligt a yid a posheter: Sholem Aleichem’s Public Image in America

11:00-11:15 Break


Popular Writing and the Question of the Canon

Introductions by Mark Louden and Pamela Potter (UW-Madison)

Saul Zaritt (Harvard University), Ventriloquists and Ghost Writers: Sholem Aleichem and the Yiddish Monologue

Benjamin Schreier (Penn State), Yiddish and the Postwar Invention of Jewish American Literature

1:00-3:00 Lunch


Popular Writing and the Question of Fiddler

Introduction by Tony Michels (UW-Madison)

Alisa Solomon (Columbia Journalism School), From Folkshrayber to Broadway and Back: How Fiddler Became Folklore

4:30-5:00 Break


Popular Writing, Sholem Aleichem, and the Question of Kafka

In Conversation with Sunny Yudkoff (UW-Madison)

Adam Sachs, “No, he isn’t Kafka”: Some Anxieties About Sholem Aleichem, Humor, and Humorists

Monday, November 13


Popular Writing and the Question of Humor

Introductions by Philip Hollander and Marina Zilbergerts (UW-Madison)

Marcus Moseley (Northwestern University), “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Idiot: Sholem Aleichem’s “Di freylekhe kompanye

Gabriella Safran (Stanford University), “Dreyfus in Kasrilivke” and Why Newspaper Readers are Funny


Closing Remarks by Tony Michels (UW-Madison)


Free and Open to the Public