Crisis and Covenant

The Holocaust in American Jewish Fiction

By Alan L. Berger

Subjects: Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture
Paperback : 9780887060861, 234 pages, October 1985
Hardcover : 9780887060854, 234 pages, October 1985

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Table of contents

1. Introduction: Jewish Existence

Covenant Transformations

Covenant and Modernity

The Contemporary Covenantal Crisis

Literary Response to Covenant Crisis

American Judaism and the Holocaust

Contributions of American Jewish Holocaust Novelists

2. Holocaust as Watershed

Holocaust Problematics

Theological Responses

Theology and Literature

Is the Holocaust Beyond Artistic Expression?

Who Should Write of the Holocaust?

Trivializing the Holocaust

American Jewish Writers and the Holocaust: A Critique

The Role of the American Jewish Novelist

3. Holocaust Responses I: Judaism as a Religious Value System

The Holocaust and American Diaspora Jewry

Hasidic Tales

Considering the Evidence

Arthur A. Cohen

Cynthia Ozick

Hugh Nissenson

Elie Wiesel

Isaac B. Singer


4. Holocaust Responses II: Judaism as a Secular Value System

Considering the Evidence

Bernard Malamud

Saul Bellow

Susan F. Schaeffer

Cynthia Ozick

Pre-Holocaust America: Jewish Existence and Covenant Diminishment

Hugh Nissenson

Robert Kotlowitz


5. Holocaust Responses III: Symbolic Judaism

Considering the Evidence

Philip Roth

Richard Elman

Edward Lewis Wallant

Norma Rosen

Bernard Malamud


6. Holocaust and Covenant

The Central Question for Contemporary Judaism

Holocaust Fiction Lato Sensu

Problems and Possibilities




Explores how Jewish American writers have grappled with the enormity of the Holocaust.

Alan L. Berger teaches in the Department of Religion and directs the interdisciplinary Jewish Studies Program at Syracuse University. His essays on Holocaust fiction and pedagogy, Jewish mysticism, and the sociology of Judaism appear in a variety of places. He has also written study guides for Alinsky's Children, a film project dealing with children of Holocaust survivors.


"I am convinced that this book will be an important contribution to the understanding of events and issues that defy understanding. "Much has been written about the theology of the Holocaust, and also about the literature of the Holocaust. What Alan Berger has done is to combine both. Furthermore, he deals more with writers than with concepts, or rather: he deals with concepts through the works of writers. " — Elie Wiesel, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Boston University

"How have American, Jewish writers of fiction faced the Holocaust in a post-Auschwitz world? In a penetrating critique of Bellow, Ozick, Roth, Nissenson, Malamud, et al. , Alan L. Berger raises this crucial question and examines it against the ancient and modern claims of the Covenant as it has acted within Jewish life and in religious Judaism. What results is a book insightful, thoughtful, carefully crafted, that establishes Berger as a first-rate critic who has fully mastered the fiction and the writers whom he examines. He is also an established Holocaust scholar. The combination provides all students of American fiction with a major new work of high merit. " — Robert W. Ross, University of Minnesota

"This thoughtful and fresh book casts a beam of light in a dark, unexplored literary horizon. It reveals how the central Jewish writers of our time grapple with the awesome, horrifying implications of the Holocaust. Many of these authors—Ozick, Malamud, Nissenson, and Singer, for example—are not usually considered Holocaust writers, but this book breaks beyond the easy categories of theology and literary criticism. Berger skillfully demonstrates here the interweaving of Jewish destiny and meaning with literary and narrative invention. An original, arresting and important work. " — Irving Greenberg, President, National Jewish Resource Center