Drawing on thirty years of research, Words on Fire traces the steps of a language once derided as "jargon" and identified with women and uneducated men from medieval times onward, and relates how efforts to raise its prestige were often met by opposition from the powers that be. Katz highlights the rise of literary Yiddish in the Renaissance-widely-read translations of knightly epic poems and guides for daily living-particularly by and for Jewish women. In the wake of secularizing and modernizing movements of the nineteenth century, Yiddish rose spectacularly in a few short years from a mass folk idiom to the language of sophisticated modern literature, theater, journalism, and scholarship.
From the rise of the Hasidic movement to the fiction of Isaac Bashevis Singer, from its complex relationship with the Zionist movement to its appearance on the Internet, Words on Fire argues that Yiddish represents a high point in Jewish civilization. Six decades after the Holocaust, the once-thriving secular Yiddish culture is in deep crisis, but Katz shows that-far from being a dying language, as many claim-Yiddish is making a resurgence among religious Jewish communities and will still be thriving well into the next century. Words on Fire is a definitive account of this remarkable language and the culture that created and sustained it....Continua