Rachel Calof's text(s): Family, collaboration, translation, 'Americanization'
AdvisorTemple, Judy Nolte
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractRachel Calof's Story. Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains (Ed. J. Sanford Rikoon, Indiana University Press, 1995) is a first-person memoir of homesteading in North Dakota from 1894-1917, based on Rachel Calof's Yiddish manuscript. I traced this text from inception to publication, especially the translation and editing process, comparing a new translation of the Yiddish manuscript with the English publication. Since the differences proved significant, my research investigated issues of oral history transmission and collaboration. In light of new scholarship in autobiography theory, particularly Paul Eakin's "proximate collaborative autobiography," I consider Rachel Calof's Story a hybrid text, integrating both oral histories and written texts to portray a more complete picture of homestead life. Rachel's son, Jacob, compiled the English version for publication, bringing a comprehensive knowledge of her life, and yet complicating objectivity because he was, indeed, her son. Recent scholarship in women's and western studies focuses on situational context; investigation of diversity supplements an increasingly multi-faceted picture. Contemporary scholarship in immigrant literature emphasizes ambivalence rather than assimilation and changed how I considered the Calof story. I apply the Personal Narratives Group's conceptualization of context, narrator-interpreter relations and multiple connotations of "truths." The oral nature of the Yiddish language is also considered as influencing the translation. I analyze specific themes at length: Rachel Calof's physical environment of home, prairie and transitional spaces; the rhetoric of frontier settlement; home in physical and religious terms; and finally, Americanization as an editorial emphasis which reduced ethnic and religious distinctions. Other multi-authored works, including those of Anne Frank, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Black Elk, reveal parallel collaborative tensions. Neither generational nor gender differences entirely explain alterations families and ethnographers make in editing transmitted works. Barbara Myerhoff's concept of the "third voice" particularly influenced my understanding the dialogic nature of manuscripts and oral histories. Finally, I question whether publishers and audiences are complicit in the demand for success stories even at the expense of stifling an author's voice. The English publication of Rachel Calof's Story was polished and unaccented; the original Yiddish manuscript was a stream of consciousness that might not have been published.
Degree ProgramGraduate College