“Absolut Tchotchke,” Chapter 5 of Jeffrey Shandler, Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture (University of California Press, 2005).
Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture book cover
Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and his world (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1941).
Bakhtin’s formulation of the carnivalesque illuminates many of the social practices associated with the objects discussed in this chapter, especially the use of often raucous humor to “turn the world upside down” and critique the status quo in a playful way.
Marilyn Halter, “Longings and Belongings: Yiddish Identity and Consumer Culture,” in Leonard Jay Greenspoon, ed., Yiddish Language and Culture: Then and Now, Studies in Jewish Civilization 9 (Omaha: Creighton University Press, 1998), pp. 189-200.
Halter considers objects similar to those under discussion here as signifiers of Jewish identity forged through consumer practices.
Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Boston: Beacon, 1955).
Huizinga’s theorizing of the nature of play sheds light on how to analyze the play with language and the playful interrelation of language and material culture at work in the objects under consideration here.
Igor Kopytoff, The cultural biography of things: commoditization as process. The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, in Arjun Appadurai, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) pp. 64-91.
Kopytoff’s notion of objects as having a life and a life story is useful for thinking about the social practices surrounding examples of material culture.
Dan Miron, “Folklore and Anti-folklore in the Yiddish Fiction of the Haskala,” The Image of the Shtetl and Other Studies of Modern Jewish Literary Imagination (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2000), pp. 49-81.
Miron’s discussion of anti-folklore offers 19th-century precedents for the complex cultural play at work in some postvernacular materializations of Yiddish.
Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993).
Stewart’s notion of the souvenir is helpful for understanding these objects as remembrances of a “past” or “lost” culture.
Uriel Weinreich, Languages in Contact (1953; repr. The Hague: Mouton, 1966).
In this study, a linguist assesses the impact of English on Yiddish and the selective place of Yiddish, as well as other immigrant languages, in American English in the early post-World War II years. Weinreich also considers how these languages acquire special symbolic and emotional value in immigrant contexts.
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