Advertisement

“My Difference Is Not My [Mental] Sickness”: Ethnicity and Erasure in Joanne Greenberg’s Jewish American Life Writing

  • Gail Berkeley Sherman
Chapter
Part of the Literary Disability Studies book series (LIDIST)

Abstract

Sherman investigates identity and difference in Joanne Greenberg’s autobiographical novel, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1964). Published in the midst of post-Shoah, nuclear anxieties, the novel’s treatment of cognitive difference and ethnic stereotyping have continued relevance in today’s climate of xenophobia and fear of the mentally ill. Unlike the 1977 movie version, Greenberg’s novel foregrounds disability and ethnic identity to repudiate stigma. Sherman draws on Emmanuel Levinas to analyze how Greenberg constructs difference as a precondition to ethical engagement. Through a sympathetic portrayal of a mentally ill Jewish protagonist, the novel reformulates the subject’s relation to Others, casting vulnerability and difference as fundamental markers of humanity. Rose Garden models a search for language that respects cognitive differences and enables ethical exchange.

Works Cited

  1. Bérubé, Michael. “Disability and Narrative.” PMLA, vol. 120, no. 2, March 2005, pp. 568–76.Google Scholar
  2. Frank, Arthur W. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. University of Chicago Press, 1995. Google Scholar
  3. Gilman, Sander. The Jew’s Body. Routledge, 1991.Google Scholar
  4. Gilman, Sander, and James M. Thomas. Are Racists Crazy? New York University Press, 2016.Google Scholar
  5. Greenberg, Joanne. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. 1964. Holt, 2004.Google Scholar
  6. Hall, Alice. Literature and Disability. Routledge, 2016.Google Scholar
  7. Halliwell, Martin. Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945–1970. Rutgers University Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  8. Hornstein, Gail A. To Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the World. Free Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  9. Kaiser, Wilson. “Disability and Native American Counterculture in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and House Made of Dawn.” Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 2015, pp. 189–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Levinas, Emmanuel. “The Face.” Ethics and Infinity: Conversations with Phillipe Nemo. Translated by Richard A. Cohen. Duquesne University Press, 1985, pp. 85–92.Google Scholar
  11. ———. Totality and Infinity. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Duquesne University Press, 1969.Google Scholar
  12. Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. University of Michigan Press, 2001.Google Scholar
  13. Page, Anthony, dir. I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (film). New Concorde, 1977.Google Scholar
  14. Pozorski, Aimee. “American Jewish Life Writing: Illness and the Ethics of Innovation.” The Edinburgh Companion to Modern Jewish Fiction, edited by David Brauner and Axel Stahler. Edinburgh University Press, 2015, pp. 65–75.Google Scholar
  15. Sherman, Gail Berkeley. “A Conversation with Joanne Greenberg.” Studies in American Jewish Literature, vol. 28, 2009, pp. 86–101.Google Scholar
  16. Snyder, Sharon L., Brenda Jo Brueggeman, and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. “Introduction: Integrating Disability into Teaching and Scholarship.” Disability Studies: Enabling the Humanities, MLA, 2002, pp. 1–12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gail Berkeley Sherman
    • 1
  1. 1.Reed CollegePortlandUSA

Personalised recommendations