This dissertation is dedicated to Inzikh (inside the self), the leading group of American Yiddish modernist poets. Since its founding in 1920, the journal Inzikh and the poetics of Introspectivism initiated a revolution in Yiddish literature. The founders of Inzikh, A. Leyeles, Yankev Glatshteyn and N. B. Minkov, rebelled against the dominant proletarian and Symbolist trends in contemporary Yiddish poetry. Introspectivism was a modernist hybrid: it took its anti-mimetic mandate from German expressionism and from Anglo-American imagism it absorbed a sober and objectified tone. Introspectivism developed an analytical approach encouraging the poet to explore his inner self as an unfinished process. Individualism and universalism became the hallmark of this group of Jewish poets writing in Yiddish.
Leyeles and Glatshteyn were identified as Inzikh's theoretical and poetical poles. The battle between these two strong poets shaped the course of Introspectivism as well as the critical responses to it. Leyeles was acclaimed for his formal mastery that straddled urban free rhythms and classicist poetry in traditional meter. Glatshteyn, on the other hand, was hailed for his linguistic innovations, thematic eclecticism and for creating imaginary worlds. Scholars of Yiddish modernism tend to interpret Introspectivism either from Leyeles's or Glatshteyn's perspective. This study will take a dialectic and holistic approach to Leyeles's and Glatshteyn's poetry as well as the poetry of their most talented disciples. This is a "group portrait" of Introspectivism at its peak in the 1930s.
Scholars have examined certain aspects of Leyeles's or Glatshteyn's poetics in the 1920s. This study offers a monographic consideration of the mature phase of Inzikh in the 1930s. In addition to Leyeles's and Glatshteyn's masterpieces from the second half of the 1930s, the dissertation will also examine books by younger Inzikhistn such as B. Alkvit, Y. L. Teler and Shloyme Shvarts. A new generation of American-educated Yiddish poets joined Inzikh. Poets aspiring to be part of this elitist family of modernists had to side either with Leyeles's or Glatshteyn's version of Introspectivism and had to overcome their anxiety of influence.
Jewish identity was marginalized in Inzikh's poetry in the 1920s. In the 1930s, due to the worsening conditions of European Jews, the poets of Inzikh addressed Jewish themes. Opposing fascism and communism challenged the poets of Inzikh to "purify the dialect of the tribe." They used the sensitive tools of suggestion, association and kaleidoscope to reconnect to their repressed Jewish roots. On the eve of the Holocaust, the Inzikhistn produced a remarkable body of modernist Yiddish poetry that was both totally modernist and fundamentally Jewish. In 1940, Inzikh ceased publication, bringing an end to Introspectivism. The poets of Inzikh continued to write, however, in a non-modernist fashion.
In the introductory chapter I will discuss the establishment of Inzikh in the 1920s as a journal of modernist Yiddish poetry. Introspectivism will be outlined using the opposing attitudes of Leyeles and Glatshteyn. The poetic principles of Introspectivism will be compared to European and American modernist trends. In Chapter Two I will show Inzikh's turn to political and cultural polemic in the 1930s. Leyeles and Glatshteyn with a new generation of committed lnzikhists reacted introspectively to the worsening of Jewish conditions in Europe. Chapters Three and Four will discuss Glatshteyn's Yidishtaytshn (1937) and Leyeles's Fabyus lind (1937) as masterpieces of engaged Introspectivism that modified the poets' modernist style shifting from universalism to parochialism. The following chapters will show how the poetic battle between Leyeles and Glatshteyn influenced lesser known Inzikhistn. Chapter Four will discuss B. Alkvit's Vegn tsvey un andere (1931) as a benign parody of Glatshteyn's poetic mastery, while Chapter Five is a discussion of Shloyme Shvarts's Bloymontik (1938) as an intensification of Leyeles's experimental style. Chapter Six is an interpretation of Y. L. Teler's Lider fun der tsayt (1940), examining themes of Jewishness and homecoming as an exodus without redemption. The conclusion focuses on the final stages of Inzikh, the A. Leyeles issue of the journal (and Glatshteyn's absence from it) and the decline of the Introspectivist school of modernist Yiddish poetry.