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“An altogether unusual love and understanding”: The Shomer Sisters and the Gender Politics of Shund Theatre

Gollance, Sonia; (2023) “An altogether unusual love and understanding”: The Shomer Sisters and the Gender Politics of Shund Theatre. In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies , APR pp. 1-23. Green open access

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Abstract

Rose Shomer Bache­lis (1882−1966) and Miri­am Shomer Zunser (1883−1951) were promi­nent cul­tur­al fig­ures in their life­times, who achieved suc­cess as play­wrights, yet their dra­mat­ic work has been large­ly for­got­ten. Iden­ti­fied as ​“di shvester Shomer” (the Shomer sis­ters), Bache­lis and Zunser rep­re­sent­ed one half of the younger gen­er­a­tion of the most promi­nent shund fam­i­ly. Like their pro­lif­ic nov­el­ist and play­wright father Shomer, they knew that ​“the mass­es love raz­zle-daz­zle and hocus-pocus,” as Sholem Ale­ichem claimed of their father in his famous 1888 polemic Shomers mish­pet (The Judg­ment of Shomer). The Shomer sis­ters’ unpub­lished operetta ​“Der liebes tants” (The Dance of Love), sub­mit­ted for Amer­i­can copy­right in 1929, depicts the rela­tion­ship between two sis­ters who are in love with the same man. Deploy­ing such tropes as show busi­ness, wed­ding fes­tiv­i­ties, and buf­foon­ish ​“green­horns,” the play is designed to enter­tain. Yet a deep­er exam­i­na­tion of ​“Der liebes tants” gives new mean­ing to shund, a genre that has usu­al­ly been regard­ed as for­mu­la­ic and uncrit­i­cal. While the play’s Apache dance motif con­veys the poten­tial vio­lence and ambiva­lence of het­ero­sex­u­al desire, it can also be read against the grain to ques­tion the cen­tral­i­ty of these very themes for the text as a whole. The Shomer sis­ters’ operetta under­mines its own mar­riage plot by empha­siz­ing the devo­tion of the two sis­ters. By focus­ing on sis­ters – – both as writ­ers and as lit­er­ary char­ac­ters – – we can rethink our under­stand­ings of the mar­riage plot and reimag­ine the entire con­cept of lit­er­ary ​“lin­eages” as they have been framed in Yid­dish lit­er­ary history.

Type: Article
Title: “An altogether unusual love and understanding”: The Shomer Sisters and the Gender Politics of Shund Theatre
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://ingeveb.org/articles/the-shomer-sisters-an...
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the version of record. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Hebrew and Jewish Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10168827
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