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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

14. Becoming Visible

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Activities: Author Activities

Saul Bellow - Selected Archive Items

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[3046] Lewis Hine, Old Jewish Couple, Lower East Side (1910),
courtesy of George Eastman House.
Upon arrival in the United States, Eastern European Jewish immigrants found themselves faced with difficult questions: which aspects of their ethnic identity should they preserve and which should they reshape? Writers like Abraham Cahan and Anzia Yezierska asked these questions in the early twentieth century, from the perspective of the Lower East Side; later writers like Saul Bellow and Philip Roth reflected on the transformation of Jewish identity in the United States.

[3048] Anonymous, Free Classes in English! Learn to Speak, Read, & Write the Language of your Children ... Special Classes for Educated Foreign Born. N.Y.C. (1936),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZC2-946].
Sign in Hebrew and English advertising free English-language and naturalization classes aimed at European Jewish immigrants. The classes were offered through the Works Progress Administration's Adult Education Program in New York City. Most Jewish immigrants in New York and other major cities lived in tight-knit communities where Hebrew or Yiddish was spoken.

[6248] Anonymous, Ginsberg with Classmates, the Columbia Campus Quadrangle (1948),
courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.
Allen Ginsberg had a precarious relationship with Columbia University: as a sophomore, he was expelled for sketching obscene drawings and phrases on his dorm window, which he said he did to demonstrate its dustiness. And although he eventually graduated, Ginsberg's final years at the school were compli-cated after he allowed an addict friend to store stolen items in his apartment: in order to avoid prosecution, Ginsberg pled insanity and spent eight months at the Columbia Psychiatric Institute.

[9072] U.S. Department of the Interior, Map of Chicago, 1970 [from The National Atlas of the United States of America, U.S. Geological Survey] (1970),
courtesy of the General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin.
At the age of nine, Saul Bellow moved from the Jewish ghetto of Montreal to Chicago, where he would reside for much of his adult life. Bellow's "human understanding and subtle analysis of contemporary culture," in the words of his Nobel Prize citation, reflect in part his witnessing Chicago's transformation from a stockyard and rail town to a booming metropolis of business and industry.

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