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Heirs of Yesterday

Emma Wolf
Edited with an Introduction by Barbara Cantalupo and Lori Harrison-Kahan

Fiction, Gender, Jewish Studies, Women's Studies

Printed Paper Cased
Available October 2020
ISBN: 9780814346679
Pages: 240 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 10 black-and-white images
Available October 2020
ISBN: 9780814346686
Pages: 240 Size: 6x9
Illustrations: 10 black-and-white images
Available October 2020
ISBN: 9780814346693

Originally published in 1900 and set in fin-de-siècle California, Heirs of Yesterday by Emma Wolf (1865–1932) uses a love story to explore topics such as familial loyalty, the conflict between American individualism and ethno-religious heritage, and anti-Semitism in the United States. The introduction, co-authored by Barbara Cantalupo and Lori Harrison-Kahan, includes biographical background on Wolf based on new research and explores key literary, historical, and religious contexts for Heirs of Yesterday. It incorporates background on the rise of Reform Judaism and the late nineteenth-century Jewish community in San Francisco, while also considering Wolf’s relationship to the broader literary movement of realism and to other writers of her time. As Cantalupo and Harrison-Kahan demonstrate, the publication history and reception of Heirs of Yesterday illuminate competing notions of Jewish American identity at the turn of the twentieth century.

Compared to the familiar ghetto tales penned by Yiddish-speaking, Eastern European immigrant writers, Heirs of Yesterday offers a very different narrative about turn-of-the-twentieth-century Jewish life in the United States. The novel’s central characters, physician Philip May and pianist Jean Willard, are not striving immigrants in the process of learning English and becoming American. Instead, they are native-born citizens who live in the middle-class community of San Francisco’s Pacific Heights, where they interact socially and professionally with their gentile peers.

Tailored for students, scholars, and readers of women’s studies, Jewish studies, and American literature and history, this new edition of Heirs of Yesterday highlights the art, historical value, and controversial nature of Wolf’s work.

Barbara Cantalupo is professor of English at Penn State University and editor of The Edgar Allan Poe Review. She is the author of Poe and the Visual Arts, which won the Poe Studies Association’s Quinn award for a distinguished monograph on Poe, and she is the editor of Emma Wolf's Other Things Being Equal (Wayne State University Press, 2002) and Emma Wolf's Short Stories in the Smart Set.

Lori Harrison-Kahan is associate professor of the practice of English at Boston College. She is the author of The White Negress: Literature, Minstrelsy, and the Black-Jewish Imaginary and the editor of The Superwoman and Other Writings by Miriam Michelson (Wayne State University Press, 2019).