New Faculty Q&A: Sunny Yudkoff

Sunny Yudkoff, originally from Montclair, NJ, joined the UW-Madison community recently. We took a few minutes to get to know the new Yiddish Instructor.

Language Institute: Why did you decide to come to the University of Wisconsin Madison?

Sunny Yudkoff: The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an amazing place to teach and study Yiddish literature and culture. The Yiddish collection at the library is strong—and it’s growing! Many students are also surprised to learn that UW-Madison is now home to one of the largest group of scholars engaged in various aspects of Yiddish culture—from Yiddish labor history, to Yiddish poetry, to the legacy of Yiddish song. And, Wisconsin itself has historically been home to a number of Yiddish-language activists and writers.

LI: What is one thing students should know about you?

SY: I didn’t start studying Yiddish until I was a junior in college. This just goes to show you how one course can change your life!

LI: What courses do you teach and which are you most excited about?

I teach courses in the Jewish Studies program, the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic, and the English Department. These courses all incorporate my passion: Yiddish literature. These courses also range in subject from the medical humanities (Eng 182. The Autobiography of Illness) to comparative Jewish literature (Lit Trans 229: Representations of the Jews in Eastern European Cultures, Topic: Writing the Jewish Body). I also teach courses on Jewish American literature that covers material from the mid-nineteenth century until today. This semester, I’m particularly excited about teaching English/Jewish Studies 593: The Literature of Jewish Identity in America. In this class, we’re reading a number of exciting texts with angry authors who take impassioned positions about topics from race to religion to politics. The subtitle for the course is, “The Literature of Angry Jews: From Saul Bellow to Bernie Sanders.” Right now, we’re reading Philip Roth’s 1969 novel, Portnoy’s Complaint. In future years, I’ll also be teaching Yiddish language here on campus.

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