Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Comparative Literature and Literary Theory

First Advisor

Charles Bernstein


HOME TONGUE EARTHQUAKE presents a case study (or test) of diasporic Ashkenazi translingual poetics in the twentieth- and twenty-first century, which inflects and re-accents Hebrew and English, among other national host languages. The transterritorial civilization of diaspora Ashkenaz spread in the late-nineteenth century from “Ashkenaz II” across disparate geographies—from the Americas to Ottoman Palestine, and beyond, via forced migration—and became, in the twentieth-century, the rhizomatic language space known as “Yiddishland”: a modernist shorthand for the prolifically scattered sites of stateless Yiddish culture situated, though never settled, across the globe. This dissertation traces the poetic and aesthetic relations between five diasporic translingual Ashkenazi writers who each in their own mode recognized the terminal widening gap between themselves and the languages they inhabited, and who wrote into this chasm, rather than ignoring it, using the very rejected accented materials at hand—those cast out by monolingual ideological forces—as sustenance for a resistant poetics of survival. These five translation-facing writers—in English, Louis Zukofsky (1904-1978) and Mina Loy (1882-1966), in Hebrew, Avot Yeshurun (1904-1992) and Harold Schimmel (b. 1935), and in Yiddish, Mikhl Likht (1893-1953)—sensed that the social and political, cultural and economic forces of their times were poised to eradicate once again the translingual realities of the dispossessed, whether indigenous or migrant, whether in exile, or hiding, those split between language and land, with one tongue here and one tongue nowhere, as was assumed, or anywhere, as we may find. These writers refused to look away, refused to practice their art in any normative monolingual style, for this reason, for making forbidden language mixing a primary modality, as a form of cultural and political disruption.

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