Promoting, supporting and encouraging the study of the United States since 1955

British Association for American Studies


Issue 6, Autumn 2004 Article 1


Issue 6, Autumn 2004 Article 1

U.S. Studies Online: The BAAS Postgraduate Journal

Issue 6, Autumn 2004

Building Up America: Architecture, Autobiography and the Precarious Construction of Urban Identity in Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers

Elizabeth Boyle
© Elizabeth Boyle. All Rights Reserved

All night long I walked the streets, drunk with my dreams. I didn’t know how the hours flew, how or where my feet carried me, until I saw the man turning out the lights of the street lamps… The silence woke up from the block. There began the rumbling of milk wagons, the clatter of bottles and cans, and the hum of opening stores, peddlers filling their pushcarts with fruit and loaves of bread. (Yezierska, Bread Givers, 155)

In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June. (Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, 4)

The search for space has always been central to America’s definition of itself, whether space as geographical reality or as ideological principle. A relatively new society confronted by the enormity of its attendant land mass and propelled by a tenet of ‘manifest destiny’, America has consistently defined its national identity through spatial models of expansion and ascension. American literature is by default crowded with examples of turgesence, from Cather’s prairies to Cooper’s Western frontier and Melville’s ocean. Within an urban context, moreover, where physical space is at a premium, these models of selfhood assume unique architectural significance. James’s imperious brownstones, for example, or Bartleby’s Wall Street office, interrogate the relationship between an elusive American selfhood and the intense upward thrust of city space. Such a relationship is further complicated by the interruptive diversity of an immigrant population.

Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers (1925) is both an illustration and a subtle critique of America’s mainstream dependence upon linear spatial constructions of urban identity. In pursuing an assimilationist agenda within her semi-autobiographical fiction, Yezierska’s attempt to create a space of acceptance for the Jewish community in New York’s Lower East Side presents no direct challenge to the prevailing spatial ethos of her adopted country. Her narrative frame for Bread Givers adheres to the vertical paradigm of success encoded within the proverbial ‘rags to riches’ experience which the millions of immigrants landing on Ellis Island were hoping to realise. Sara Smolinsky’s rise from the poverty of slums to self-sufficiency reflects the capitalist ideal encoded within the confident, aspiring skyscrapers of New York. Yet Yezierska’s attempt to locate an authentic space for the gendered ethnic self within this frame draws upon more subversive models of urban life; not only upon the Naturalism of earlier writers like Dreiser and Crane, who, responding to the crisis of numbers in American cities at the turn of the century, became interested in reflecting the obscure urban spaces hosting marginal experience [1] but also upon wider debates on the relationship between women and city space. These debates constitute a radical shift in questions of gender representation and patriarchal (spatial) discourse taking place at the time, explored most prominently across the Atlantic by writers like Virginia Woolf. Woolf’s notion of the city was as a vital collective, independent of its constituent parts, wherein the individual can or may be forced to subsume her identity to the public space. It is this ability to lose the prescriptions of gender and self within the dense urban environment that Yezierska, publishing Bread Givers in the same year as Mrs Dalloway appeared in both Britain and the United States, embraces. By privileging the corridors and chaotic backstreets of the Jewish ghetto as liminal, disruptive spaces sustaining marginal identity, Bread Givers reads against traditional ascensive configurations of American urban identity and in doing so, posits an alternative schematic for the practice of female selfhood in the early twentieth century city.

All of Yezierska’s fiction, whether about young, working-class immigrant Jewish women, or the elderly, isolated urban poor, expresses the feelings of characters considered by others to be marginal to the American mainstream. But Yezierska’s objective is not to elucidate the squalid idiosyncrasies of ghetto life, nor lose her readers entirely in overblown melodrama, although both elements are consistently in evidence throughout her fiction. While bearing witness to the strength and vibrancy of the ethnic community in which she lived, the social project behind Yezierska’s writing actively encourages the assimilation of Yiddish culture into America. For her as an immigrant, and for her central characters, the goal is to become a “real” American. Direct, emotional, and unashamedly dealing in the currency of the icon, Yezierska’s voice appears naïve, even formulaic; it is only relatively recently, in fact, that the literary value of Yezierska’s work has been credited over its value as social history [2]:

Then came a light – a great revelation! I saw America – a big idea – a deathless hope – a world still in the making. I saw that it was the glory of America that it was not yet finished. And I, the last comer, had her share to give, small or great, to the making of America, like those Pilgrims who came in the Mayflower. [3]

What lifts Yezierska’s work above the level of panegyric, however, is its deliberate exploitation of the apocalyptic language embraced by much contemporary journalism. For example, the subtitle to Bread Givers, Yezierska’s most successful novel, casts the process of Americanisation which Yezierska promoted so vigorously as a generic struggle “between a father of the Old World and a daughter of the New”[4]; Yezierska’s writing attempts to meet contemporary anti-immigrant feeling on its own ground. Ron Ebest argues convincingly that Yezierska’s overwrought style and frequent use of sometimes anti-Semitic stereotypes (such as the selfish scholar-father personified in Talmudic scholar Reb Smolinsky in Bread Givers) are better understood as products of the journalistic context in which she wrote. Yezierska published in the same periodicals which were debating the thorny ‘Jewish Question’. Ebest continues, “Yezierska’s stories engaged this debate in the space it was already occupying… Thus the stories may be understood as arguments, offered by one of the Jews under discussion, and interjected into an ongoing, often ugly, frequently nativist, many-voiced debate”.[5]

This exaggerated process of Americanisation within Yezierska’s writing is, however, countered by more subtle, counteractive processes of gender and ethnicity – of being in the city. Writing against essentialism of gender stereotyping, Judith Butler has argued that sex and gender are both “culturally constructed within existing power relations”; “‘Woman’ itself is a term in process, a becoming, a construction that cannot rightfully be said to originate or to end. As an ongoing discursive practice, it is open to intervention and resignification.”[6] In writing of a woman’s experience within what Claudine Herrmann has called the “man’s space” of the city – “a space of domination, hierarchy and conquest, a sprawling, showy space, a full space”[7] – Yezierska traces the open-ended logic emergent in liminal spatial configurations which competes with hierarchical territory to support a increasingly equivocal reading of urban space. ‘Woman’, then, is a process of “intervention”, unpicking the encoded spaces of the city. Architectural space in Yezierska’s Jewish ghetto consequently becomes a territory of negotiation between competing discourses of gender and, of course, ethnicity.

Such negotiations are played out within the architectural narrative of Bread Givers. The plot follows the fortunes of a heroic individual, Sara Smolinsky, who is born into abject poverty on Hester Street in the heart of New York’s Lower East Side. We watch as she scrapes together enough money to put herself through college and eventually is ‘rewarded’ with marriage to an American-born educator, while her sisters slowly fall victim to the claustrophobic ghetto. The tenement within Bread Givers becomes an analogue for Sara’s integration into ‘successful’ American society. Not only that, but each space Sara inhabits marks the construction of iconic space, so that the novel builds until it itself becomes a monument to success. Sara starts in the crowded slums of Hester Street. There is no room for either personal expression or neat, American educational maxims here:

It was now time for dinner. I was throwing the rags and things from the table to the window, on the bed, over the chairs, or any place where there was room for them. So much junk we had in our house that everybody put everything on the table. It was either to eat on the floor, or for me the job of cleaning off the junk pile three times a day. The school teacher’s rule, “A place for everything and everything in its place,” was no good for us, because there weren’t enough places. (Bread Givers, 8)

Defying her repressive and ‘Old World’ father, who insists on claiming the largest room in the apartment for himself and his religious books, Sara abandons her family to their tenement and rents a room of her own:

It was a dark hole on the ground floor, opening into a narrow airshaft. The only window where some light might have come in was thick with black dust… But the room had a separate entrance to the hall. A door I could shut. And it was only six dollars a month. (Bread Givers, 158)

The space is “dark” and “narrow” and dirty. But, as Yezierska foregrounds, it has “a door I could shut”. Privacy is at a premium – private space implies independence and self-determination, a space to be free of the limitations which poverty and gender imposed in the cramped spaces of Hester Street. This “dark hole”, despite its drawbacks, marks the “gutter” point from which Sara will later rise, the “bottom starting-point of becoming a person” (Bread Givers, 159). From this room Yezierska shifts Sara to a suburban setting as she attends college among “quiet streets, shaded with green,” forsaking the inner cityscape entirely for the moment. Sara occupies a number of rented rooms as she tries to fit in with her fellow American students and teachers. All her choices of accommodation, however, prove invalid – somehow inauthentic – because they motivated by a misplaced desire to fit herself into an alien space. Her final college room, for example, is chosen because Sara is drawn to her psychology lecturer who lives in the room above. She rapidly discovers that her attraction is hollow, and that she must find a space for herself alone:

Stupid yok! Always wasting yourself with wild loves. I’ll put a stop to it. I’ll freeze myself like ice… I’m alone. I’m alone. (Bread Givers, 230)

Finally, on her return to the city after winning a college degree, Sara locates a room which mirrors her newly found independence:

I had selected a sunny, airy room, the kind of a room I had always wanted… No carpet on the floor. No pictures on the wall. Nothing but a clean, airy emptiness… I celebrated it alone with myself. I celebrated it in my room, my first clean, empty room…. I had achieved that marvellous thing, ‘a place for everything and everything in its place.’ (Bread Givers, 240-1)

Sara has literally achieved the heights of success- she has scaled the icon and is now enshrined at the top of the tenement, in America’s urban heart. Having developed an architectural authority superior to the ghetto spaces she used to inhabit, she can now use her vantage point to survey both old and new worlds. More pointedly, the top floor high above the slums of Hester Street has now become its own shrine to the finally realised and completed selfhood – that monumental and ever-present character “I” which is so much part of all Yezierska’s fiction. The insistent quality of the “I” repeatedly keys into an individualism explored in an increasing number of contemporary fictional contexts; Melville’s obsessive sea-captain Ahab seems expressive of a fundamental American drive towards single consciousness and personal success. Sara becomes the stereotypical Columbus-figure: “I felt like Columbus starting out for the other end of the earth,” she says, “I felt like the pilgrim fathers who had left their homeland… and trailed out in search of the New World.” (Bread Givers, 209) But more than a horizontal journey across the Atlantic, Sara’s ambition towards independent selfhood is fundamentally expressed through a language of heights and depths, a kind of architectural ascension: “It was like looking up to the top of the highest skyscraper while down in the gutter” (Bread Givers, 155). Amongst the ‘junk’ of the kitchen on Hester Street, the authorial “I” battled within each sentence against the rags and tables and chairs and windows and “things”; in the lush, alien environment of college this “I” turned in on itself, forging into something powerful, and dominating every sentence. Finally, back within the city, the “airy emptiness” of this final room signals the absence of any controlling discourses: Sara has achieved both spatial and personal independence and the personal pronoun assumes a triumphant position.

This gaining “a room of one’s own” is reflected in the feminist agenda set by Virginia Woolf on the other side of the Atlantic. Mrs Dalloway also posits the assumption of a separate female space through the medium of architecture:

Like a nun withdrawing, or a child exploring a tower, she went, upstairs, paused at the window, came to the bathroom. There was the green linoleum and a tap dripping. There was an emptiness about the heart of life; an attic room. Women must put off their rich apparel. At midday they must disrobe … So the room was an attic; the bed narrow; and lying there reading, for she slept badly, she could not dispel a virginity preserved through childbirth which clung to her like a sheet. [8]

Woolf creates an ideal of female solitude and space in which gender is stripped of its “rich apparel”, revealing a liberating “emptiness about the heart of life” – the same “clean, airy emptiness” that Yezierska seems also to celebrate. In this, Bread Givers enters into dialogue with a radical feminist tradition. Yet, if Sara’s bare apartment echoes a feminist negation of gender, Yezierska is uncomfortable with any implicit rejection of racial identifiers. As a Jewish immigrant to the United States, Yezierska writes within a very different cultural environment to Woolf. Bread Givers seeks to illuminate the processes by which the gendered self negotiates rather than negates that environment. The disruptive spatial strategies of race and gender, played out in obscure corridors and crowded streets, offer some release from gender signifiers while simultaneously embracing a larger Jewish heritage.

Yezierska engages in a subtle exposition of the intimate or private spaces and complex processes which contest American monumentalism. Yezierska restricts most of the action to internal spaces and domestic scenes. Despite Sara’s final, iconic white room, the novel retains a claustrophobic atmosphere. Such architectural claustrophobia is mirrored in the plot development: Sara’s success story remains significantly incomplete. Her white-room-independence is complicated and then compromised by Sara’s acceptance of her father back into her newly made home on the final lines of the book:

In the hall, we paused, held by the sorrowful cadences of Father’s voice. “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.”… Hugo’s grip tightened on my arm and we walked on. But I felt the shadow still there, over me. It wasn’t just my father, but the generations who made my father whose weight was still upon me.” (Bread Givers, 297)

Complete independence from the ‘Old World’ is undercut by an acknowledgement that there is no entire escape from the “shadow” of the past, or from the weight of marginal cultural identity. Yezierska’s timing of this revelation for the last page of the book leaves the reader in a limbo state, suddenly bereft of the happy ending which we had anticipated. Our last view of Sara is a powerful one, precisely because it reveals the ultimate failure of iconic stereotype in the face of harsh reality; it is of Sara confronting the limits of iconic space from a darkened tenement corridor.

If the corridor remains our final spatial image of the novel, the street plays a central and more positive role within the body of the text. The urban street resists an iconic reading and Yezierska consistently locates her subject in this environment, emphasising Sara’s determination to walk everywhere.[9] Certainly, this is a result of Sara’s poverty since she cannot afford the fare for the ‘L’ tram or a cab; but it is also a question of choice, and thus a space of agency. By locating Sara here, in a space utterly opposite to that blank apartment room, Yezierska signals a rejection of that ivory tower subjectivity. The street becomes a locus of power for the gendered ethnic self, an embrace of multiplicity and a celebration of the mastery of architectural discourse. It is both freeing and enmeshing: Hester Street is of course a site of oppression and crushing poverty but the street is also an in-between space outwith the claustrophobia of the tenement rooms, both a connection and an interruption in the architectural lexicon of the immigrant Lower East Side. It is within this impermanent or transitional context that Sara can attempt to construct a precarious representation of individual selfhood within the capitalist market of America. After Sara has made her first profit for her family, selling herring, she glories in her street power:

It began singing in my heart, the music of the whole Hester Street. The pushcart peddlers yelling their goods, the noisy playing of children in the gutter, the women pushing and shoving each other with their market baskets – all that was only hollering noise before melted over me like a new beautiful song. (Bread Givers, 22)

On a textual as well as architectural level, the street also offers a location for the final release from the monolithic authorial “I” of the novel. Yezierska produces this through a manipulation of the fissure between the real and the fictional, between the authorised and unauthorised narrative space. Sara’s father, Reb Smolinsky, is a Talmudic scholar and arrogant, violent father-figure. His repeated identification throughout Bread Givers with the heavy, leather-bound Talmudic scriptures of his faith signals both a religious and a textual power. The narrative is filled with his constant quoting of the ‘words of God’, especially in defence of his own deeply ingrained sexism:

It says in the Torah, only through a man has a woman an existence. Only through a man can a woman enter Heaven.” (Bread Givers, 137)

In allowing Reb Smolinsky to be stripped of his books at the novel’s close, Yezierska symbolically transfers textual authority to Sara, recently qualified as a teacher herself. By this token, the New York of Bread Givers becomes a textual arena contested by the double authority of Sara, the narrator, and her father, the Talmudic scholar. While Sara’s “I” represents the determination of an individual consciousness in this new world, Reb Smolinsky’s voice represents the legitimate space of religion and of the past, especially of the ‘Old World.’ This authority finds architectural expression in his reputation as the “speaking mouth of the block.” (Bread Givers, 26) Reb Smolinsky, a man reduced to his vital (and only) function – that of the ‘mouth’ – is firmly identified with the immutable manifestation of the Russian Jewish community in New York: the block. His words seem to bind the block together. Confirmation of Reb Smolinsky’s representative power seems to come with his acquittal from court, where he has been accused of slapping his landlady after she accidentally stepped on his Torah manuscript. Everyone comes out on the street to celebrate his release:

In the evening, when everybody sat out on the stoop, the women nursing their babies, the men smoking their pipes, and the girls standing around with their young men, their only talk was how Father was the speaking mouth of the block… Shprintzeh Gittel put the baby down in the gutter, and stuck a nipple into its mouth to keep it quiet, and right before everybody on the stoop, acted out, like on the stage, the way Father hit the landlady first on one cheek and then on the other. All the people stamped their feet and clapped their hands, with the pleasure of getting even, once in their lives, with someone over them… (Bread Givers, 26)

This passage, however, charts the transference of authority from the male figurehead into a space that is both communal and female. Shprintzeh Gittel (notice Yezierska’s resolute determination to use real Jewish names to emphasise the authenticity of her narrative) literally performs the dual role of mother (with a suckling baby) and actress as she narrates Reb Smolinsky’s victory, narrativising it so that it becomes a communal victory for “all the people”. Far from being alienated in the urban environment, the woman has been able to manipulate the city space to her advantage, creating from it a platform for narrative and even a place for motherhood, confidently placing her baby in the “gutter.” The tenement stoop becomes a “stage” where it is the voice of a minor female character, rather than Reb, which binds the block together in “the pleasure of getting even.” Thus the authoritative space of religion is displaced by an unauthorised and marginal space dedicated to the communal process narration or fiction.

Bread Givers itself rests in a space somewhere between fiction and fact, so similar are the plot’s events to Yezierska’s own experience. In such circumstances it is possible to cast even the monolithic “I” of the narrator as a space resistive to iconic status. The recurring presence of the “I” has become ammunition for some critics wishing to emphasise Yezierska’s conformity to male tradition and thus reassess her ‘radical’ status as a feminist writer. For, the “I” traditionally symbolises an idea of unified, coherent, male selfhood, and links in with the autobiographical stereotype. But in Yezierska’s text, there is an alternative version of the “I” which subverts this tradition. Recalling Derrida’s identification of the “signature” as the “internal border” marking the gap between the life and the text of an autobiographical subject, the “I” in Bread Givers marks the site at which ideas of the ‘real’ and the ‘constructed’ collide.[10] Indeed, Derrida makes an interesting point about autobiography and the act of writing itself, arguing that autobiography is never wholly commensurate with the ‘truth’ because, as an act of writing, it is necessarily a secondary function – that is, the ‘truth’ comes first and the testament second. Always privileged above textual truth is the vocal truth, in one’s own voice. Therefore, the autobiography itself rests upon a fissure, one remove away from the ‘truth’ of the experience. Because the “I” invites synonymy with the ‘real’ authorial presence (when audiences read “I”, they pictured Yezierska) it acts as an authorising force within the text. In effect, it declares “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Yet, because Bread Givers is a novel – a fictional work of art which makes no overt claims on reality – the “I” is also unauthorised.

Responding to Derrida’s ideas on ‘Otobiography,’ for example, Rodolphe Gasché is very clear in his delineation of the real and the textual, and that the resulting text is unauthorised by both of them:

[A]utobiography is not to be in any way confused with the so-called life of the author, with the corpus of empirical accidents making up the life of an empirically real person. Rather, the biographical, insofar as it is autobiographical, cuts across both of the fields in question: the body of the work and the body of the real subject. The biographical is thus that internal border of work and life, a border on which texts are engendered. The status of the text – if it has one – is such that it derives from neither the one nor the other, from neither the inside nor the outside. [11]

Gasché’s “internal border” – that is, the space where the auto/biographic text is “engendered” – is an un-policed area, defined by “neither the inside nor the outside.” This border can be traced in Bread Givers past the autobiographical boundary to a more crucially unauthorised position between the autobiographical and the fictional. This generic gap maps on perfectly to the experience of an immigrant woman in an early twentieth century urban environment, for the ethnic female subject is positioned at the margins of two major discourses, that of ethnicity and gender. Being both a controlled and uncontrolled space, therefore, the text becomes a space wherein the ethnic female self can confront and also escape the discourses that attempt to construct her. [12] That Yezierska was constantly aware of this textual escape route is clear from her description of her own working method. Speaking of the woman after whom she had modelled Hannah Breineh, protagonist of the prize-winning tale, ‘The Fat of the Land,’ she said:

She was so full of color, but when I tried to put her down on paper, the words stared back at me stiff and wooden. But I went on writing and rewriting, possessed by the need to get at something unutterable, that could only be said in the white spaces between the words. Weeks, months, I labored over a bit of dialogue, over a fragment of a scene till the words that blacked the meaning got out of the way, and the characters leaped to life. [13]

In the light of this, rather than forming the ideological “hearth” of the book, the white room itself becomes a transitional “white space” – an androgynous space between genders, a precarious space which actively resists concrete identity. Barthes’ architectural view of ‘truth’ is pertinent here: he suggests that “western discourse has a tendency to privilege a closure of meaning, the closure of ‘truth’ over the openness of metaphor.” In such cases, he says, the tendency is “to arrange all the meanings of a text in a circle around the hearth of denotation (the hearth: center, guardian, refuge, light of truth).”[14] This shift in literary theory parallels the deconstructive move in architecture, which similarly rejects ideas of enclosure and safety.

It’s clear, in conclusion, that Yezierska’s novel struggles with the idea of iconic space, even as it champions it. By rejecting stable architectural space, Yezierska makes her novel a debatable ground. Architectural ascension forms the scaffolding of the text; icons become the currency it trades in. But Yezierska also works against this. It is not simply that iconic space is untenable; more that it is barren. It is in the space of the corridor and of the urban street – transitional, impermanent, in-between spaces – that marginal identity can begin to unfold. Yezierska’s novel also signals a rejection of the safe/sanctioned generic space of truth-oriented autobiography. The seam separating Sara and Yezierska lies at the heart of this rejection: the space between author and subject is assumed to be zero under the rules of ‘true’ autobiography, but the existence of space – the exploitation of that space by Yezierska herself, and for very practical and political reasons – reveals Yezierska’s violation of textual confinement through her knowledge of and sophisticated manipulation of author/subject relations. As Sara’s declaration confirms, Yezierska’s intention is to uncover a unique space for the self outwith the constructions of gender, of the poverty-stricken tenement streets, and of the necessity of the real. Within this unique space, she can be her own “boss”:

No! No one from Essex or Hester Street for me… I’d want an American-born man who was his own boss. And would let me be my boss. And no fathers, and no mothers, and no sweatshops, and no herring! (Bread Givers, 66)

University of Sheffield


[1] Examples include: Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie (New York: Doubleday, Page and Co, 1900); Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (New York, private printing, 1893).

[2] Yezierska’s work was ‘rediscovered’ in the early 1970s by Columbia University historian Alice Kessler-Harris. In her introduction to a new collection of Yezierska’s short fiction, The Open Cage (1979), Kessler-Harris admits that critical opinion current in the 1970s pronounced Yezierska’s fiction “[more] valuable as social history and somewhat less important for its place in literature” (The Open Cage: An Anzia Yezierska Collection, ed. with an introduction by Alice Kessler-Harris, (New York: Persea Books, 1979), v.) Some readers, like Irving Howe, openly call her stories “not very good”, while even fans like Grace Paley admit serious weaknesses in style and structure (Ebest, 1).

[3] Anzia Yezierska, America and I’, Children of Loneliness (New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Co., 1923)

[4] Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers: A Struggle Between a Father of the Old World and a Daughter of the New, introduction by Alice Kessler-Harris (New York: Doubleday, 1925; reprinted Persea Books, 1975)

[5] Ron Ebest, ‘Anzia Yezierska and the Popular Periodical Debate over the Jews’, Melus, 25.1 (2000), 3.

[6] Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York & London: Routledge, 1990), 33.

[7] Herrmann, The Tongue Snatchers, tr. by Nancy Kline (University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 169. See Johanna X K Garvey, ‘City Limits: Reading Gender and Urban Spaces in Ulysses’, Twentieth Century Literature 41(1), 1995, 108-123.

[8] Virginia Woolfe, Mrs Dalloway (London: Hogarth; New York: Harcourt Brace, 1925), 45-46.

[9] For an interesting recent study on the more iconic role of the street in Yezierska, Roth and several other American authors, see Mary Esteve’s The Aesthetics and Politics of the Crowd in American Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003)

[10] Derrida, Jacques, The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation ed. by Christie McDonald, transl. by Peggy Kamuf (Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1985)

[11] Rodolphe Gasché, ‘Roundtable on Autobiography’, in Derrida, Jacques, The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation (Lincoln & London: University of Nebraska Press, 1985), 41. Derrida identifies the leaf between the title and the main text to be the “lift-off point” or “engendering place” of autobiography as it is neither the work nor the author’s life. For Derrida, the leaf is the “heterogeneous space.”

[12] This space could also be figured in terms of the “wild zone” as described by Elaine Showalter in her essay, ‘Feminist Criticism in the Wilderness’, The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature, and Theory (New York: Pantheon, 1985), 243-270.

[13] The Open Cage: An Anzia Yezierska Collection (New York: Persea Books, 1979), vii.

[14] Roland Barthes, S/Z (New York: Hill & Wang, 1974), 7. The rejection of textual “closure” espoused by Barthes is more commonly associated with the deconstructionist work of Derrida, See Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. by G. Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974); The Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation, ed. by Christie McDonald, transl. by Peggy Kamuf (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1985).