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“I write fiction, and I'm told it's autobiography, I write autobiography and I'm told it's fiction”: Reflection of Philip Roth’s Writing and its Legacy

Event Type
Jewish Culture and Society
wifi event
Feb 7, 2022   6:30 pm  
Steven J. Zipperstein (Stanford University)
Registration Link
Dara E. Goldman
Originating Calendar
Campus Humanities Calendar

When asked about the relationship between his lived experiences and his writing, Philip Roth offered the following suggestion: "I write fiction, and I'm told it's autobiography, I write autobiography and I'm told it's fiction…since I'm so dim and they're so smart, let them decide what it is or it isn't" (Roth, Deception, 184). For this event, two leading scholars of Philip Roth will discuss his writing, the relationship between his life and his literary work, and what his work means to us today. 


Steven J. Zipperstein is the Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University. He is currently at work on a biography of Philip Roth for Yale University Press's Jewish Lives series. He is also the author and editor of nine books, including award-winning titles such as The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History, Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism, Imagining Russian Jewry (1999); and Rosenfeld’s Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing.  His most recent book, Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History, published by Liveright/WW Norton, (2018 ) was shortlisted as the best non-fiction book of the year by the Mark Lytton Prize, named as a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and a Book of the Year by "The Economist, "Ha-Aretz" and "Mosaic Magazine.

He has held fellowships at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Yitzhak Rabin Institute in Tel Aviv, and has twice been a Visiting Professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Sciences Sociales.  In spring 2014, he was the first Jacob Kronhill Scholar at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, in New York. Zipperstein’s articles have appeared in The New York Times Sunday Book Review, the Washington Post, The New Republic, the Jewish Review of Books, Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere.  He was editor of the journal Jewish Social Studies for twenty years, and the book series Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture for a quarter of a century.  Together with Anita Shapira, he is series editor of the Yale University Press/Leon Black Foundation Jewish Lives series. Zipperstein is the immediate past Chair of the Academic Advisory Council of the Center for Jewish History.


Brett Ashley Kaplan is the director of the Initiative in Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies and Professor in the Program in Comparative and World Literature where she serves as the Director of Graduate Studies. She is the author of Jewish Anxiety in the Novels of Philip Roth (Bloomsbury, 2015) which analyzes race and power in contemporary Jewish American literature through rigorous discussions of Roth’s fiction. Her scholarship includes Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation (UP Illinois, 2007) and Landscapes of Holocaust Postmemory (Routledge, 2011) and publications in venues such as Memory Studies, American Literary History, Journal of Jewish Identities, Modern Philology, Textual Practice, Criticism, Comparative Literature, Studies in Jewish American Literature as well as, The Jewish Review of Books, The Conversation, Ha’aretz, and AJS Perspectives. Kaplan also co-edited a cluster on 21C. Jewish Writing and the World in American Literary History, published an interview with Nicole Krauss in Ninth Letter, and has been interviewed on the AJS Podcast, NPR, and The 21st.


The panel will be moderated by Robert Markley, who addition to being Trowbridge Professor and Head of English, studied with Philip Roth as a graduate student. 

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