TOPICS IN YIDDISH LITERATURE- The Third Assignment: Final Paper

Final Paper

Sholem Aleichem’s masterpiece “Tevye the Dairyman” and it’s later onscreen adaptations

Submission date: not later than NOON, December 14, 2019

The film can be revisited and (re)watched online:

TEVYE (1939) (Links to an external site.)Тевье (США, 1939)

Offer a comparative analysis (but not a book-report retelling the contents) of Sholem Aleichem’s “Tevye the Dairyman” (written in 1895-1915) and its two screen adaptations: (a) Maurice Schwartz’s 1939 film “Tevye” and (b) the relevant final two episodes of Norman Jewison’s 1972 film adaptation of the 1960s musical “Fiddler on the Roof”.

For extra consideration, you may offer a few extra paragraphs with a concise general summing-up discussion (see No. 6 below).

When comparing the original book by Sholem Aleichem with the two films, please remember that the Yiddish film is not based on the book part of which we read, but on the author’s, that is Sholem Aleichem’s own, adaptation of some of the Tevye stories into a play. Also, the film “Fiddler on the Roof” is not a direct adaptation of Sholem Aleichem’s work, but a 1971 film adaptation of a Broadway 1960’s musical with the same name, “Fiddler on the Roof”, which is indeed a very loose and somewhat deceptively americanized adaptation of the Tevye stories.

Suggested issues to address may include the following:

  1. The characterization of Tevye in the book and the different interpretations of this character on screen. What can be done on screen as opposed to what was done in the original text of Tevye’s monologues? How does the type of film – a high-drama film, or a musical play reworking which is, in turn, itself adapted into a film – affect the nature and perhaps even the content of the original literary work?
  2. The way in which death is being portrayed, referred to, dealt with in the book and on screen (note, if it is altogether avoided in one of the film adaptations and if so, then what does it tell us about that particular adaptation).
  3. Coping with “losing a child” to poverty, to Revolution, to death, to Capitalism in the book and to conversion (in “internal” traditional terms: to “Apostasy”) in both the book and in the two screen adaptations.
  4. The portrayal of the non-Jewish characters and Tevye’s interactions with them.
  5. The traditional way of life, the changing world and the overwhelming impact of “modernity”
  6. Finally, you may wish to add a few paragraphs briefly comparing and summing-up all three larger literary works that were read for this course and their cinematic adaptations (or interpretations). A good idea might be to focus your general summing-up discussion on the so-called “crisis of modernity” (see 5 above).

If you write only about “Tevye the Dairyman” and its film adaptation(s) then the paper shouldn’t be no longer than 5 pages. However, if you wish to add the comparative summing-up paragraphs, the paper may be longer, however, but not exceeding 6 pages.


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