• Heirs of Yesterday

    by Emma Wolf, Barbara Cantalupo, Lori Harrison-Kahan
    Price $29.99
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    Heirs of Yesterday
April 23, 2021

Barbara Cantalupo and Lori Harrison-Kahan

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes editors BARBARA CANTALUPO and LORI HARRISON-KAHAN for a discussion of their co-edited edition of Emma Wolf's groundbreaking novel Heirs of Yesterday. They will be joined in conversation by JONATHAN SARNA, the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and author of American Judaism: A History.


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.

About Author(s)

Barbara Cantalupo is professor Emerita of English at The Pennsylvania State University and editor of The Edgar Allan Poe Review. She is author of Edgar Allan Poe and the Visual Arts; editor of Other Things Being Equal by Emma Wolf (2002), Emma Wolf's Short Stories in The Smart SetPoe's Persuasive Influence; and co-editor of Prospects for the Study of American Literature, Vol. II (2009).

Lori Harrison-Kahan is the editor of The Superwoman and Other Writings by Miriam Michelson (2019) and co-editor of Heirs of Yesterday by Emma Wolf (2020). An associate professor of the practice of English at Boston College, she is also the author of The White Negress: Literature, Minstrelsy, and the Black-Jewish Imaginary (2011).

Jonathan D. Sarna is University Professor and the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University, where he directs its Schusterman Center for Israel Studies. Author or editor of more than thirty books on American Jewish history and life, his American Judaism: A History—recently published in a second edition—won six awards including the 2004 “Everett Jewish Book of the Year Award” from the Jewish Book Council. His most recent books are When General Grant Expelled the JewsLincoln & the Jews: A History (with Benjamin Shapell), and an edition of Cosella Wayne, by Cora Wilburn, the first (and hitherto unknown) American Jewish novel.