2016 marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Sholem Aleichem. Best known today as the author whose work would be adapted into Fiddler on the Roof, Sholem Aleichem boasted a mass, global audience long before Tevye danced across the screen. Yet scholars of Yiddish culture have often focused less on the popular legacy of his work than on his status as a modernist innovator and subtle, ironic comic. The proposed conference, “The Highs and Lows of Sholem Aleichem: Yiddish Literature and the Pursuit of Popular Writing,” seeks to reassess Sholem Aleichem’s mass reception. Bringing together scholars, journalists, and novelists, the conference will critically examine what it means to label Sholem Aleichem a “popular” Yiddish writer. At the same time, it will also seek to understand his role as a figure of Jewish high culture.
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