Jessica Kirzane

Kirzane Headshot
Assistant Instructional Professor in Yiddish in the Department of Germanic Studies
Cobb 501
Office Hours: By appointment, via Zoom
Ph.D., Yiddish Studies, Columbia University, 2017; MA, Yiddish Studies, Columbia University, 2011; BA, English Literature and Jewish Studies, University of Virginia, 2008
Teaching at UChicago since 2018
Research Interests: Modernism; Jewish Literature and Culture; Literature, Religion, Politics

As the coordinator of the Yiddish language program at the University of Chicago, I work to improve students’ reading, writing, speaking, and listening abilities in the Yiddish language at all levels, and to develop courses and pedagogical materials that allow students to engage in real-world historical and present-day Yiddish cultures at every level of language instruction. As the editor-in-chief of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies, I serve the field of Yiddish Studies, catalyzing dialogue between scholars and cultural activists around the world about Yiddish culture, pedagogy, and scholarship. My work as a literary translator and a scholar expands the canon of Yiddish literature to include female-identifying voices and popular-oriented writing as central to the story of modern Yiddish writing. 

Intellectual Profile

I am a passionate teacher who delights in helping my students to reach a command of the Yiddish language and a sense of ownership, creativity, and belonging within the world of Yiddish culture and scholarship. My writing about her pedagogical approaches can be found in In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies,  the Teach Great Jewish Books  website of the Yiddish Book Center, and elsewhere.  I was a 2018 pedagogy fellow at the Yiddish Book Center and my language teaching is informed by my participation in the broader Yiddish teaching community, as well as the language instructional community at the University of Chicago. 

I received my PhD in Yiddish Studies from Columbia University, where my dissertation “The Melting Plot: Interethnic Romance in American Jewish Literature in the Early Twentieth Century” argued that narratives of love between Jews and non-Jews served as a central plot device in early American Jewish literature, in both Yiddish and English, through which Jewish authors investigated ambivalence and desire for American identities. I continue to examine related topics in my academic writing: Jewish racial self-construction in American Jewish literature, American Jewish writers’ geographical imagination vis a vis America, and Jewish women’s struggles within and against prescribed gender roles through romantic narratives. 

In conjunction with my academic writing, I am an enthusiastic translator of Yiddish literature, and my work has been published in Another Chicago Magazine, Pakn Treger, AzonaL, Columbia Journal, Your Impossible Voice, In geveb, and elsewhere. In my translation work, I search for narratives that voice perspectives that have heretofore been underexamined in Yiddish literary studies. Having recently published my translation of Miriam Karpilove’s Diary of a Lonely Girl, or the Battle against Free Love (Syracuse University Press, 2020), I am now at work on a translation of A Provincial Newspaper, and Other Stories by Miriam Karpilove.  I received a 2017 Yiddish Book Center translation fellowship. 

As the editor-in-chief of In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies (www.ingeveb.org), I support the world of Yiddish scholarship and cultural production through my leadership in fostering an open-access, born-digital home for scholarship, pedagogical resources, translations, and public scholarship in the field of Yiddish Studies. 

Work with Students

I work closely with students at all levels who are interested in Yiddish language study or working with Yiddish in their research.  This has included advising in BA theses involving Yiddish literature or historical research, mentoring undergraduate editorial interns for In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies, and advising and mentoring students through literary translation projects.  I also runs a weekly Yiddish tish (reading and discussion group) that is open to students at all levels of Yiddish, whether or not they are enrolled in Yiddish language instruction. 

Selected Publications

Translations:

  • Karpilove, Miriam. Diary of a Lonely Girl, or the Battle against Free Love. Translated by Jessica Kirzane. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2020.
  • Getsl Selikovich. “The Institute for Facial Reform (A Fantastical Story) Website of the Yiddish Book Center, 2016.  Reprinted in Funny Ha, Ha, edited by Paul Merton, London: Head of Zeus, 2019.
  • Yente Serdatsky, “She Waits,” “The Young Widow,” and “The Loyal Cousin” by Yente Serdatsky.  In Have I Got a Story For You: More than a Century of Yiddish Fiction from the Forward, edited by Ezra Glintner. W.W. Norton, 2016.
  • Joseph Opatoshu, “A Lynching.” In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies.  June 2016

Academic Writing:

  • 2020.  “The ‘Yiddish Gaze’: American Yiddish Literary Representations of Black Bodies and their Torture.” In Race with Jewish Ethics, edited by Jonathan Crane. Penn State University Press.
  • 2020.  “Women, Love, and the Reform Jewish Mission: Jewish-Christian Marriage in Emma Wolf’s Other Things Being Equal and its Literary Successors.” American Jewish History, 104, no 2/3 (September): (pages forthcoming).

Writing About Pedagogy:

Teaching

  • Elementary Yiddish I, II, III
  • Intermediate Yiddish I
  • Intermediate Yiddish II: Archival Skills
  • Advanced Yiddish I: Readings in Yiddish Literature
  • Yiddish Literature in America
  • Women Who Wrote in Yiddish