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Jacob Gordin'S Dialogue With Tolstoy: Di Kreytser Sonata (1902)

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Chapter Summary

Gordin's works were one of the cornerstones of the American Yiddish repertoire from the 1890s through the first decade of the 20th century. Di Kreytser sonata is typical of Gordin's dramas in that it borrows the structure, themes, and title of a well-known work of non-Jewish literature, shifts the action to contemporary Russia and New York, and uses the borrowed work to address issues of importance to Jewish immigrant audiences. This working method was envisioned as a means of reforming the "low" and "parochial" Yiddish stage through adaptation for it of "high" and "universal" works of secular, non-Jewish art. Gordin's adaptation of Tolstoy, however, absolves music of any destructive role in instigating or abetting the murders with which Kreytser Sonata concludes. This is only one of many points on which Gordin parts ways with Tolstoy.

Keywords: American Yiddish repertoire; contemporary Russia; Di Kreytser sonata; Jacob Gordin; Jewish immigrant audiences; New York; non-Jewish literature; Tolstoy

10.1163/ej.9789004173354.i-308.9
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