Monday, August 16, 2010

Essay: "Split at the Root." Adrienne Rich (1)

Review: A Jewish-American woman living in a Christian world, the author looks back on a life defined by her Jewish identity. The struggle to define who she is begins with her Jewish identity. She is, however, “split at the root.” She has many stages in her life to date that grow, one way or another, out of her Jewish identity.

Quote: “I have to face the sources and the flickering presence of my own ambivalence as a Jew; the daily, mundane anti-Semitism of my entire life.”

Quote: “Why now? Why, I asked myself sometime last year, does this question of Jewish identity float so impalpably, so ungraspably, around me, a cloud I can’t quite see the outlines of, which feels to me without definition?”

Quote: “In a long poem written in 1960, when I was thirty-one years old, I described myself as ‘split at the root, neither gentile nor Jew, Yankee nor Rebel.’ ”

Quote: “My mother is a gentile. In Jewish law I cannot count myself a Jew.”

Quote: “The social world in which I grew up was Christian virtually without needing to say so: Christian imagery, music, language, symbols, assumptions everywhere.”

Quote: “But it was white social Christianity, rather than any particular Christian sect, that the world was founded on. The very word ‘Christian’ was used as a synonym for virtuous, just, peace loving, generous, etc., etc.”

To be continued.

The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Ed. Phillip Lopate. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.

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