Literature and the “Prophetic Voice”
I’m not certain where this line of thought is going quite yet — but it’s going somewhere. Elsewhere, I offer the beginning of a thought about a concept somewhere between Forster’s “Prophecy” (as an “aspect of the novel”) and the idea of a “prophetic spirit” within Judaism, and its relationship, or lack thereof, with the Jewish-American novel.
Unfortunately, I also can’t help but think that having had this beginning of a thought a month ago would have produced a series of significantly better statements of purpose than various graduate institutions received. Oh well.
Individual artists do not err by writing in the manner they find most appropriate and most comfortable. Philip Roth did not shirk any duty by writing like Philip Roth, rather than like Herman Melville; the world would be a poorer place had Saul Bellow written in any other voice. But if the community of Jewish-American artists—and, more specifically, of Jewish-American writers (even more specifically, of novelists)—does not produce artists than can work, even if only once, in a mode that channels the voice of the prophets, then it is abdicating a segment of its communal duties, and leaving the voice of Judaism incomplete. And for this, too, the world would be a poorer place.