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Universal Despair and Spiritual Salvation in Bernard Malamud’s Short Stories

Author SuYuJie
Tutor ZhuMei
School Huaqiao University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Malamud universal despair spiritual salvation modernism
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Bernard Malamud (1914-1986) is one of the most famous Jewish writers that sprang up on the stage of literature in postwar America. Malamud resists the label of American Jewish writer that has been putting on him all along because he feels himself writing for all men. This self-declaration of the author is well corroborated and reflected in his works. He takes the Jews as the starting point in his portray of all confused, desolate, despairing modern people. He also uses the Jews as a reference in his appeal for all mankind to seek for spiritual salvation. This universal spectrum of concern Malamud expresses through his works echoes great modernists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This thesis takes the focus on Malamud’s short stories, and investigates in the framework of British-American modernist literature the universal despair and the spiritual salvation that come through in the author’s stories, so as to demonstrate Malamud’s significance as an authentic successor of the mainstream Anglo-American modernists.This study is composed of six parts. The first part gives a brief introduction to Bernard Malamud as writer, the main ideas that hold this thesis together, and the contents of the rest of the thesis. The second part provides a literature review of Malamud studies so far, on the basis of which the rationale of the present thesis is presented. The theoretical framework for this study is manifested in the third part which expounds the essence of modernism from two aspects: universal despair as the controlling mood of modernist works, and spiritual salvation as modernist methodology. The fourth and fifth sections are devoted to the analysis of Malamud’s short stories. They focus, respectively, on the universal despair embodied in Malamud’s depiction of the despairing human selves and the despairing human relationships, and Malamud’s sense of spiritual salvation conveyed through his accentuation of the value of human suffering and human compassion. Based on the demonstration, the last part comes to the conclusion that there is actually a succession from Anglo-American modernists to Bernard Malamud who has long been merely referred to as an American Jewish writer.

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