BODY AND SOUL | The State of the Jewish Nation

Ruth Wisse, PhD

Ruth Wisse, PhD

Professor, Harvard University

As a scholar and a literary and social critic, Ruth Wisse is a unique figure in American Jewish letters.  She bridges the worlds of Yiddish and American culture, of literature and politics, and of Israel and the Diaspora.

Ruth Wisse is currently research professor of Yiddish literature and comparative literature at Harvard University,  She was the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University from 1993 until her retirement in 2014. Before that she taught at McGill University where she helped to found the Jewish Studies Department. She was president of the Association for Jewish Studies, 1985-88.

Wisse has written several books on literature, including The Schlemiel as Modern Hero; A Little Love in Big Manhattan: Two Yiddish Poets; and The Modern Jewish Canon: A Journey through Literature and Culture, which won the 2003 National Jewish Book Award for Scholarship. Her edited works include The I.L.Peretz Reader and The Best of Sholem Aleichem (with Irving Howe).

A frequent commentator on cultural affairs, Wisse is also the author of three political studies: If I Am Not for Myself: the Liberal Betrayal of the Jews (Free Press, 1992), Jews and Power (Schocken, 2007), and No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (Princeton, 2013). Her political writings have appeared in Commentary, Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal, among others.

Her honors include the National Medal for the Humanities (2007), the National Foundation for Jewish Culture Award for Scholarship (2001), and the Manger Prize for Yiddish Literature (1988).

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