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The Sons of Phil: Rothian self-satire and self-incrimination in Shalom Auslander’s 'Foreskin’s Lament' and Gary Shteyngart’s 'Little Failure'

Brauner, D. (2017) The Sons of Phil: Rothian self-satire and self-incrimination in Shalom Auslander’s 'Foreskin’s Lament' and Gary Shteyngart’s 'Little Failure'. Open Library of the Humanities, 3 (2). 15. ISSN 2056-6700

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To link to this item DOI: 10.16995/olh.143

Abstract/Summary

Shalom Auslander and Gary Shteyngart are two of the most prominent new voices to have emerged in Jewish-American fiction in the 21st century. In addition to their fiction, they have both published memoirs—Auslander’s Foreskin’s Lament (2007) and Shteyngart’s Little Failure (2014)—that follow the narrative trajectory of Bildungsromane and are, as their titles suggest, characterised by a self-satirising, self-incriminating comedy. In this article, I will argue that this comedy emerges from an intertextual dialogue with the work of Philip Roth, so that we might call Shteyngart and Auslander—adapting the ‘Sons of Ben’ label given to a generation of Caroline authors who regarded themselves as disciples of the Renaissance poet and playwright Ben Jonson—‘sons of Phil’. Tracing the affinities between the work of the two writers and that of Roth, I argue that their ‘works of semi-autobiography’ cannot be accommodated in the redemptive, ethical model of Jewish fiction that has been proposed by a number of recent critics, but rather are animated by the paradoxically self-fulfilling and self-abasing impulse identified by Shteyngart: ‘I write because there is nothing as joyful as writing, even when the writing is twisted and full of hate, the self-hate that makes writing not only possible but necessary’ (Shteyngart, 2014: 148).

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Minority Identities
ID Code:68722
Publisher:Library of the Humanities

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