<%BANNER%>

"Oh, to be a Center Fielder"

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0042980/00001

Material Information

Title: "Oh, to be a Center Fielder" Baseball and Jewish Identity in Portnoy's Complaint and The Counterlife
Physical Description: 1 online resource (35 p.)
Language: english
Creator: GOWER,ADRIENNE REEVES
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2011

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Although Philip Roth discusses baseball repeatedly in his novels and autobiographical works, comparatively little criticism considers the meanings of the sport in his writing. A recent surge in interest in the subject of Jews and baseball throws this lack of criticism into sharp relief, creating the perfect conditions for a renewed discussion of America?s pastime in Roth?s novels, particularly those in which baseball is connected to Jewish identity. In two of Roth?s novels, baseball is linked specifically to Jewish identity?_Portnoy?s Complaint_ and _The Counterlife_. Reading these two novels together both reveals a pattern in which Roth uses baseball to mitigate conflict and allows for a closer examination of the sport?s significance to the recurring theme of American-Jewish identity in his work. In _Portnoy?s Complaint_, baseball emerges as a tool Portnoy uses for mitigating his conflict in identity?a setting in which he can escape the causes of the discord, an environment in which his identity is certain, and a potential site for reconciling the warring aspects of his nature. In _The Counterlife_, Roth links baseball to the coming of the Messiah, proposing the potential of America?s national pastime to be a unifying secular church for Israel. Comparing the use of baseball in these two novels reveals that the sport is repeatedly associated with both mitigating conflict and growing up American. It is my contention that this kind of reading?following a symbol used across Roth?s novels to look for repeated meaning?is one way of identifying Roth?s perspective, or figuring out the kind of autobiographical writer he is.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by ADRIENNE REEVES GOWER.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2011.
Local: Adviser: Rudnytsky, Peter L.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2013-04-30

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2011
System ID: UFE0042980:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0042980/00001

Material Information

Title: "Oh, to be a Center Fielder" Baseball and Jewish Identity in Portnoy's Complaint and The Counterlife
Physical Description: 1 online resource (35 p.)
Language: english
Creator: GOWER,ADRIENNE REEVES
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2011

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: Although Philip Roth discusses baseball repeatedly in his novels and autobiographical works, comparatively little criticism considers the meanings of the sport in his writing. A recent surge in interest in the subject of Jews and baseball throws this lack of criticism into sharp relief, creating the perfect conditions for a renewed discussion of America?s pastime in Roth?s novels, particularly those in which baseball is connected to Jewish identity. In two of Roth?s novels, baseball is linked specifically to Jewish identity?_Portnoy?s Complaint_ and _The Counterlife_. Reading these two novels together both reveals a pattern in which Roth uses baseball to mitigate conflict and allows for a closer examination of the sport?s significance to the recurring theme of American-Jewish identity in his work. In _Portnoy?s Complaint_, baseball emerges as a tool Portnoy uses for mitigating his conflict in identity?a setting in which he can escape the causes of the discord, an environment in which his identity is certain, and a potential site for reconciling the warring aspects of his nature. In _The Counterlife_, Roth links baseball to the coming of the Messiah, proposing the potential of America?s national pastime to be a unifying secular church for Israel. Comparing the use of baseball in these two novels reveals that the sport is repeatedly associated with both mitigating conflict and growing up American. It is my contention that this kind of reading?following a symbol used across Roth?s novels to look for repeated meaning?is one way of identifying Roth?s perspective, or figuring out the kind of autobiographical writer he is.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by ADRIENNE REEVES GOWER.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2011.
Local: Adviser: Rudnytsky, Peter L.
Electronic Access: RESTRICTED TO UF STUDENTS, STAFF, FACULTY, AND ON-CAMPUS USE UNTIL 2013-04-30

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2011
System ID: UFE0042980:00001


This item has the following downloads:


Full Text

PAGE 1

1 BASEBALL AND JEWISH IDENTITY IN AND THE COUNTE R LIFE By ADRIENNE REEVES GOWER A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2011

PAGE 2

2 2011 Adrienne Reeves Gower

PAGE 3

3 To my husband

PAGE 4

4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS For the support, encouragement, and absolutely impeccable advice, I thank Dr. Peter Rudnytsky, a world class mentor. I also thank Dr. Marsha Bryant for her valuable perspective and comments during my defense. To my husband, who has been my emotional pillar throughout th is process, I owe my utmost gratitude. Finally, I thank my mother for her immutable belief in me

PAGE 5

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 6 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: BASEBALL AND PHILIP ROTH ................................ .................. 8 2 JEWISH MASCULINITY IN ................................ ....................... 13 3 SECULAR RELIGION IN THE COUNTERLIFE ................................ ...................... 22 4 BASEBALL ....................... 30 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................... 33 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ............................ 35

PAGE 6

6 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for th e Degree of Master of Arts BASEBALL AND JEWISH IDENTITY IN AND THE COUNTERLIFE By Adrienne Reeves Gower May 2011 Chair: Peter Rudnytsky Major: English Altho ugh Philip Roth discusses baseball repeatedly in his novels and autobiographical work s, comparatively little criticism considers the meanings of the sport in his writing A recent surge in interest in the subject of Jews and baseball throw s this lack of criticism into sharp relief creating the perfect conditions for a renewed discussion of J ewish identity and The Counterlife R eading these two novels together both reveals a pattern in which Roth uses baseball to mitigate conflict and allows for a closer exa to the recurring theme of Amer ican Jewish identity in his work In baseball emerges as a tool Portnoy uses for mitigating his conflict in identity a setting in which he can escape the causes of the discord, an environment in which his identity is certain, and a pot ential site for reconciling the warring aspects of his nature. In The Counterlife Roth links baseball to the coming of the Messiah proposing pastime to be a unifying secular church for Israel Comparing the use of base ball in

PAGE 7

7 these two novels reveal s that the sport is repeatedly associate d with both mitigating conflict and growing up American It is my contention that this kind of reading following is one w ay of

PAGE 8

8 CHAPTER 1 I NTRODUCTION: BASEBAL L AND PHILIP ROTH Baseball is important to Philip Roth important both to his life as a child growing of and references to baseball. Unsurprisingly, the novel most often referenced to establish Roth as a baseball author in the league of fellow American Jewish authors Bernard Malamud, Mark Harris, and Eric Roth Greenberg is The Great American Novel that is involved in baseball as a primary subject, several depend on its symbolic use In Complaint Alexander Portnoy describes a childhood and adolescent love of baseball that soun ds very clos as described in The Facts The Counterlife features Jimmy Ben Joseph, an American born Israeli who wants to bring American Pastoral is a legenda ry athlete who turns down an opportunity to play professional baseball in order life love The Facts Patrimony and th e that co nsiders the meanings of the sport in Roth writing. There are only a few notable Harrison briefly examines the connection between American Jewish identity and baseball in works by Philip Roth and Bernard Malamud. Add itionally, any discussion of

PAGE 9

9 The Great American Novel must of course consider baseball to some extent, but Ben 78) constitutes a rare analysis of the novel by itself. Sustained analyses of baseball in American Pastoral are prowess including his talent for baseball, his best sport are frequently noted (see Gary Johnson 2004 and Derek Parker Royal 2005, for example), the significance of baseball in the novel has not been thoroughly examined. A recent surge in interest in the subject of Jews and baseball throws this lack of sustained cr itical discussion of the sport to Jews and Baseball : Volume 1, Entering the American Mainstream, 1871 1948 (2007), last t (1), citing a sharp increase in book publications, websites, and fan paraphern alia as Abramowitz attributes the recent surge in interest to multiple factors, of finding and communicating with like minded fans via the internet. Most importantly, howeve r, Abramowitz credits the increased interest to a historical and cultural synonymous with America between the 1870s and the late 1940s, and American Jews of that era establis Burton and Benita Boxerman, coauthors of Jews and Baseball

PAGE 10

10 S ince the Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story has also been released. Thus the historical and cultural connection between Jews and baseball has lately engendered a boom in interest on the subject This recent fascination with Jews and baseball coupled with the lack of criticis m creates the perfect conditions for a connected to Jewish identity. Although both The Great American Novel and Americ an Pastoral (and, to a lesser extent, Our Gang ) feature baseball, it is used in these works primarily as a vehicle for representing, parodying, and/or satirizing American society (174), and it functions as such in these works in The Great American Novel as a mythologies surrounding them, and in American Pastoral as an element of c omplete answer to the all American boy. specifically to Jewish identity and The Counterlife The simila rities between these two novels may be less immediately apparent than their differences. One is the fictional representation of a psychoanalytic treatment in which Alexander Portnoy expatiates on the conflict between his sexual desire and his desire to ple ase his family; the other is a postmodern experiment in narrative and

PAGE 11

11 authorship combining various conflicting accounts of events in the lives of two brothers, Nathan and Henry Zuckerman. These differences notwithstanding, and The Count erlife share both baseball and a depiction of conflict concerning identity specifically, Jewish identity. Trouble arises for Portnoy because of the opposition between his need to live up to his American a happy domestic life with a Jewish wife in the suburbs and his wild desire for sexual encounters with shikses the more degraded, the better. His inability to resolve this conflict results in a state of identity confusion in which neither moral behavior nor sexual indulgence yi elds gratification. In The Counterlife the conflict is in the religiously and which baseball is suggested as a tool for building national unity. Unlike in The Gr eat American Novel baseball is peripheral both in Complaint and (even more so) in The Counterlife ; a hurried reader may miss its presence completely. My purpose, therefore, is not to overemphasize an ostensibly minor element in the novels, but t o use baseball both as an interpretive key to unlock less apparent meanings in each of the works and as a link to connec t the two in order to repeated representation of baseball as a means of moderating conflict. Although passing allusions to baseball occur throughout scenes that feature baseball more extensively invariably serve to mitigate the conflict between shikse obsessed sex addict. Similarly, baseball is offered i n The Counterlife as an instrument for mitigating the conflict between the incompatible religious and political identities of the citizens o f Israel. The absence of the sport throughout the rest of the novel calls attention to its use

PAGE 12

12 in one scene, in whic h Jimmy Ben Joseph, an American born Israeli who has recently made aliyah (immigrated to Israel for the religious purpose of returning to the holy land) and Nathan Zuckerman, a secularized American Jewish writer, discuss their mutual love of the sport. The passage ends with an explicit linking of baseball to Judaism. After tellingly represented by the Wailing Wall, one of the mo st holy sites in the Je wish faith Using baseball as a link to read this scene from The Counterlife in conjunction with reveals several significant similarities. Both sections of their respective works involve a Jewish character experiencing a conflict in identity, a trip to Israel (where Portnoy is headed when he begins reminiscing about the Sunday morning baseball games played by the men in his neighborhood), a linking of baseball to American Jewish identity, and an idealization of baseball as the vehicle to an idyllic existence for Portnoy, a happy domestic life in Newark, and for Jimmy Ben Joseph, the coming of the Mess iah. Thus reading these two works together both reveals a pattern in which Roth uses baseball to mitigate conflict and allows for a closer examination of the significance of baseball to the recurring theme of American

PAGE 13

13 CHAPTER 2 BASEBALL AND AMERICAN JEWISH MASCULINITY IN In 1974, Philip Roth wrote a short essay in response to the oft repeated question of how he came to write In this piece, Roth intro duces two archetypal figures for understanding the character of Alexander Portnoy Reading 3 1). Using these terms, the central dilemma of can be understood as an internal conflict between the Jewboy and the nice Jewish boy These concepts emerge in the novel as two competing routes to becoming a man. and to boy en specifically American t these oppositional masculinities both the desires of the Jewboy and the inhibitions of the nice Jewish boy he lives in a state of discord in which neither sexual indulgence n or moral behavior yields gratification. In this context, baseball emerges as a tool for mitigating his conflict in identity a setting in which he can escape the causes of the discord, an environment in which his identity is certain, and a potential site fo r reconciling the warring aspects of his nature.

PAGE 14

14 Although passing references to baseball are prevalent throughout Complaint the game plays a central role in four particular scenes. These are, in the order in which they appear in the novel: when Seabees, when Portnoy ejaculates into his mitt at the Empire Burlesque House, and when Portnoy reminisces about the pick up baseball games played by neighborhood Jewish men during his childhood. Because is written in what Roth together by association rather than chron Reading 13), the strategic placement of these discussions of baseball as oases amid scenes of conflict reveals the central role Neighborhood baseball games provide relief f rom identity conflict because, like the goyim and Jewish masculinity these two groups pose. The absence of g oyim allows Portnoy to forget what move his bowels, his lack of education, and his lack of professional success, Portnoy relates the story of his eighth birthday, during which he discovers that his father cannot hit a baseball and even fails to ho failures culminate in and can be symbolized by his inability to play baseball. Yet the

PAGE 15

15 subsequent absence of the competing masculinity of the goyim masculinity was in the world o f goyim American Jewish arena of masculinity, despite a decided lack of talent for baseball. Like the exclusion of the goyim the exclusion of women from the games also provides comfort to Portnoy The longest discussion of baseball, the passage in which Portnoy longs only to be center fielder, occurs as a direct result of visiting his mother in the hospital after her emergency hysterectomy. During his visit, Portnoy is horrified by his mother as i has broken his bond to her. Not without guilt, Portnoy describes his feelings towards his in the ey repulses him, however, but also her immense love and self sacrifice for him As Portnoy will giv her at the hospital for more than a couple of minutes. His escape to the baseball field marks a flight from what is to Portnoy overbearing love and sacrifice, debilit ating (68) self sacrificing Jewish mothers, from the neighborhood baseball games gives Portnoy respite from the unpayable debt he owes above all to his mother and the

PAGE 16

16 Portnoy also values baseball because adopting the character of a player temporarily provides him with an une quivocal identity. In the game, there is no place for uncertainty. Indeed, he adores baseball, despite his mediocre talent, because as a child e performance of baseball, with rules and customs that felt ethical and altruistic impulses a then baseball can be seen as therapy for the exhausted ego that cannot reconcile the conflicting positions of the super ego and the id, the nice Jewish boy and the Jewboy. In addition to providing P ortnoy with a fixed identity, baseball offers the promise of an inner consciousness that agrees with the external influences on his life. After describing his complete knowledge of and comfort in the role of a center fielder, Portnoy people who feel in life the ease, the self assurance, the simple and essential affiliation with what is going on that I used to feel as the center fielder for role of the center fielder symbolizes for him a sense of belonging in life a symmetry personal desires in life. Found in the middle of a passage that describes Por t and

PAGE 17

17 before there was conflic desires. Portnoy loves center field in particular because it offers him solitude, insight, and control all qualities he lacks with regard to his family and home life. Portnoy describes the position: real time Furthermore, everything that occurs is clear and intelligible, a comforting quality for the adult Portnoy, who experiences even his own consciousness as is yours. Oh, how unlike my home it is to be in center field, where no one will appropriate unto himself anything that I say is mine! nal). Thus center field, not insignificantly the position farthest from home in baseball, comforts Portnoy because it provides him with a measure of control over boundaries between himself and his family that he lacks in his home. Baseball emerges as a symbol of American Jewish ma sculinity in the scene in which Portnoy ejaculates into his baseball mitt at the Empire Burlesque house. After Portnoy slips onto a bus and heads to a burlesque show in dow ntown Newark. While eighth n[e] a full and

PAGE 18

18 Burlesque house. The juxtaposition of these conflicting identities that of the nice Jewish boy who will grow to be a successful American Jewish family m an, represented addicted Jewboy, willing to genitalia reflects what Portnoy sees as the two divergent wa ys of becoming a man. foreshadow the ultimate failure of baseball as a mechanism to unify his identity. Baseball as an escape from identity conflict and baseball as a sy mbol of American Portnoy travels to Israel to flee a relationship with the Monkey that has ended with her threatening to throw herself off a hotel balcony in Athens over a three some with a This escape a guilt free and respectable life as a American Jewish husband and father, honoring hi s parents and tribe while pursuing justice for the disenfranchised, and a guilt laden wild and contemplating a return to Greece, Portnoy again experiences baseball as an escape class men of his all just to have to have a good time playing, evoke in Portnoy a memory of himself at nine running

PAGE 19

19 (244) brings him to tears just as the airplan e touches down in Tel Aviv signifying a metaphorical return to his working class American Jewish values and upbringing simultaneous with his literal return to the Jewish holy land. fused existence by adding another dimension to his identity conflict the issue of Jewish authenticity. As Jewish lifestyle they represent that inspires his emotion not the arrival in Israel. Although his fellow passengers speculate that he is a pious Jew happy to arrive in the holy land, his true homecoming is the return to the dream of an idyllic future in Newark. be one o men who return from playing ball on Sundays to a happy home with a loving American Jewish wife and children, one of those men whose lives have meaning and purpose beyond the self. In an attempt to find such meaning in Israe l, Portnoy embarks on an entity, as embodied by the Israeli Lieutenant fail to achieve an erection when attempting to have sex with each of the women, his nice Jew ish boy efforts to embody the family man are farcical. Within minutes of meeting Naomi, a twenty one year old native born Israeli woman who lives in a

PAGE 20

20 her extensive lectures on the evils of American society and her vehement condemnation of Diaspora Jews, Portno y first declares his love for h er and then assails her with unwanted sexual advances This scene culminates in the frustration of both the nice Jewish boy and the Jewboy, as Naomi rejects his romantic proposals, and his sexual advances end in detumescence which Portnoy illuminates the central tension in the chapter yet the Jewi sh faith and the Zionist movement characterize America as exile Thus Portnoy is alienated both from Israel its citizens and from America and the American Jewish exper ience I n response to Naomi claim of Jewish authenticity and contempt for Diaspora Jews Portnoy simultaneously defends his own American Jewish upbringing and acknowledges his alienation from the idyllic American baseball t too, you, only in another place! (Where I also center field, with its distance from home, and Sunday morning baseball games, with their (246) American Jewish existence cannot re Analyzing the use of baseball in key scenes in reveals the setting in which he can escape th e discord caused by the conflicting demands of his

PAGE 21

21 family, his community, and his emerging sexuality. During adolescence, baseball provides an environment in which his identity is certain a temporary escape from the war between the Jewboy and the nice Jewi sh boy. As an adult, Portnoy returns to the image of baseball as a potential site for reconciling the warring aspects of his nature, despite the fact that he has already seemingly chosen a life of pleasure seeking. Taken in conjunction, these scenes reveal that Roth uses baseball in as a tool to mitigate identity conflict. In order to establish baseball, I now turn to the role of the national pastime in The Counterlife where Roth again links issues of impote nce, Jewish authenticity, and American Jewish identity to baseball.

PAGE 22

22 CHAPTER 3 HOW CAN THERE BE JEWS WITHOUT BASEBALL? RELIGION IN THE COUNTERLIFE In The Counterlife Roth revisits the topics of American Jewish identity, Jewish authenticity and impotence previously presented in the final chapter of Complaint again linking them to baseball in In this chapter, Henry has immigrated to Israel, abandoning his wife, children, and successful dental practice, in search of a more meaningful life after having had dangerous and unnecessary surgery to restore his sexual potency so that he could continue afternoon encounters with his dental assistant The similarities between Portnoy and Henry in the se chapters are striking Like Portnoy, Henry faces a conflict in identity that pits his sexual desires against his conscience. Like Portnoy, Henry flees to escape the responsibilities and seeks a larger meaning for his life in Israel. Indeed, Henry actually takes the step that Portnoy only contemplates ( Portnoy 269). In a sense, fleshes out the themes introduced through the chara cter of Henry, who lives the lives Portnoy only ponders as alternatives to his own that of the secular Jewish family man and that of the politically and religiously zealous Israeli imm igrant ; however, raises the stakes by pitting these identities against each oth er, juxtaposing conflicting characters Zuckerman and Henry Shuki and Lippman. Consequently, in The Counterlife baseball serves as a tool not for mitigating inner discord but for mediat ing interpersonal conflict While in Complaint baseball symbolizes an idyllic American Jewish existence with the potential

PAGE 23

23 for u The Counterlife baseball represents a mechanism for uniting the religiously and politically divided nation of Israel B aseball appears only once in The Counterlife the narrator of the chapter, writer Nathan Zuckerman visits the Wailing Wall, one of the most holy sites in the Jewish faith During this scene, the religious and the secular merge as Jimmy Ben Joseph transforms the Wailing Wall into the outfield wall of of th most ha Counterlife 84). acterized by the peaceful co existence of Rich a unifying secular church for Israel, whose national unity is fractured by political discord and the diverse backgrounds of its citizens. For the purposes of focusing on baseball, I consider only the versio n of events he scene at the Wailing Wall. Although the character Jimmy Ben nature of novel, which consists of five chapters presenting various conflicting accounts of the characters, means that there is no guarante e of symbolic unity o r coherence across the chapters. Deb ra Shostak describes characteristic narrative voice, imagines a scenario, fleshes it out into fully realized n to Henry in

PAGE 24

24 one chapter such as the impotence induced by his heart medication happen to Nathan in another or are completely eliminated from the subsequent narrative. Thus the novel nd to no standard Shostak 198). Therefore he Henry of as demonstrated s not necessa rily the I read these iterations of the character as distinct personages ethnic, and religious differences that give rise to dislike and distrust among the various groups. Although almost all Israelis are Jewish, there are various types of Judaism with divergent religious customs and ethnic backgrounds. The primary division i s between Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardic Jews Sephardim (from Spai n and Portugal) and Mizrachim (from the Northern Africa and the Rich religious customs engender discord between these groups, which Zuckerman witnesses when his old friend, S Sephardic Jew. Such a comment is tantamount to an ethnic slur; however, ethnic conflict is not the largest divider of the population. After this incident, Shuki explains that sick, illiterate Eth

PAGE 25

25 are also immigrating to Israel, along with Oriental and Russian Jews, thus creating a nation of people with little in common except their religion Furthermore, the nation is divid ed both politically over settlements on the West B ank and relations with the Arabs, and religiously, with secularization pitted against orthodoxy. These divisions are reflected in the characters of Shuki Elchanan and Mordecai Lippman. At one end of the po litical spectrum, Shuki is a secular, liberal Israeli intellectual who lives in Tel Aviv, works as a journalist and professor, and travels and teaches abroad often. At the other end, Mordecai Lippman is the zealous leader of Agor, a religious settlement on the West Bank. He believes that Israel should take all of ideals and relig ious practices of people who are both Jewish and Israeli, further demonstrating that Judaism alone cannot identify or unite Israel. Israel is identified by Jimmy Ben Joseph, a young American man who has recently (91). During their conversation, Jimmy explains to Zuckerman why he is a fan of his ball! Because of all you feel about 94). This passage generates several questions essential to understanding its meaning: What is the feeling about baseball to which Jimmy refer s? Why is this feeling essential to Jews? And just how is baseball related to the coming of the Messiah?

PAGE 26

26 The Cou nterlife about baseball summoned by Jimmy Such a move is appropriate not only because of the biographical overlap between Roth and Zuckerman they are both American Jewish writers born in 1933 in Newark but also, and more significantly, because of the Carnovsky immediately recall in both subject matter and reception, a comparison Roth himself employs. In an interview with The Paris Review Roth explains his response to the success of or three months. Precisely what Zuckerman should have done after Carnovsky Reading 135). Here Roth equates himself and Zuckerman, and Carnovsky experiences after publishing their respective works, thereby suggesting that Ro are closely a ligned. Thus without taking a position on the broader question of I propose own published sentim ents concerning the national pastime as representative of ( Reading 219). For Roth, baseball was not simply an enjoyable pastime as he notes, whose roots in America were strong but only inches deep baseball was a kind of

PAGE 27

27 secular church that reached into every class and region of the nation and bound millions World War II made his gene ration one of the most ardently patriotic in American history, baseball I was put in touch with a more humane and tender brand of patriotism, lyrical rather than martial or righteous in spirit, and without the re Here Roth identifies two elements of his experience of baseball that would be useful to Israel as portrayed in The Counterlife and baseball as a form of patriotism. Although a unifying sec ular church may at first seem redundant to Israel, where almost everyone is Jewish, the wide range of religious beliefs held by those who identify themselves as such demonstrates that Israel is no more religiously unified than the United States. The need f or a better brand of patriotism is more obvious especially when considering the vi olent and ideological militancy of are embarrassed by the necessities of survival in a jung le. This is a jungle with wolves all around! We have weak people here, soft people here, who like to call their cowardice second Holocaust for which weak Jews will be responsible. Though Lippman would certainly characterize his remarks as patriotic, they and zealous types of national fervor Furthermore, his ideas are politically alienating to secular Israelis such as Shuki, thus necessitating an alternat iv e form of patriotism for uniting the country.

PAGE 28

28 sport, specifically baseball for t he role of a unifying element because, l ike politics and rel igion, it Reading 220) in disparate g roups of people. Furthermore, sport does so without the associated consequences, as A. Bartlett consequences original). In other words, sport induces a rel igious feeling of devotion to a team and belonging to a co mmunity without the cosmic repercussions (such as entrance into heaven, the coming of the Messiah, etc.) that cause religious views to be so divis ive. Thus the virtue of sport lies in its ability to unite a diverse group of people around a common goal that is important to all, but whose success or failure makes no lasting differenc e a particularly powerful quality in a politically and religiously divided nation. Baseball in particular is distinctly a ligned with Jewish history and theology because of its lack of violence and its narrative of homecoming. Roth notes in The Facts of himself and his fellow American remotely recent old county Jewish origi ns may well have been a source of our especially intense devotion to a sport that, unlike boxing or even football, had nothing to 3 3). As Roth points out, the non violence of baseball may recommend it over other sports to a peopl e still haunted by the spectres narrative of homecoming echoes the story of the Jews return to the holy land, as

PAGE 29

29 is about rejoining rejo ining a beloved, rejoining parent to child, rejoining a land to its rightful owner or rule. Romance is about putting things aright after some tragedy has put embarks from home plate on a dangerous journey full of twists and turns and obstacles to advancement in the hope of accomplishing the ultimate goal of returning home, but it also tells the sto ry of the Jews: exiled from their homeland by the Romans, they wandered in d angerous lands for centuries, experiencing the ultimate tragedy of the Holocaust, in the hope of one day returning to Israel. Thus distinct alignment with Jewish history and theology suggest that Israel needs baseball should not be brushed off as the half Counterlife 92). For as Roth notes in The Fact s echoing Reading 220) while he was growing up, baseball had the power to bestow seemed to suggest T hus according to Roth, the national pastime had the power to bring together the disparate populations of a divided nation As demonstrated in The Counterlife just such a national pastime may be needed to unite the pol itically, religiously, and culturally fragmented nation of Israel And perhaps Jimmy is righ t such a unifying sport may even be necessary to create a people worthy of the Messiah, or alternat iv ely, to bring paradise to earth.

PAGE 30

30 CHAPTER 4 CONCLUSION PERSONAL PASSION FOR BASEBALL In the letter Roth writes to the Zuckerman as preface to his autobiography, The Facts there is a significant gap between the autobiographical wri ter that I am thought to be readers, if they were interested enough to care, could have figured as much for 4). Although these comments may be taken as a def ensive response to the assumption that Rot they may autobiographical writer Roth is. Here I have isolated and trac a relatively minor element, across two of his novels in order to reveal that the sport is repeatedly associate d with mitigating crises It is my contention that this kind of reading look for repeated meaning writer he is. This thesis is supported by the fact that s own feelings about baseball as expressed in Patrimony the autobiographical work that tells the story of hi illness and eventual death echo the sentiments about the sport found in his fiction In Patrimony s description of himself making use of baseball as an escape from the stress of his f llness recalls employment of the sport as a means Mets game with some pleasure, concentrating, like any ordinary run of the mill escapist on D

PAGE 31

31 s attitude toward baseball as suggested by similar representations of the sport repeated in his fiction is confirmed in his autobiographical works. That further proven by the overwhelming similarity of his representation of baseball in to that in The Facts mornings, wa tching with amusement as the local fathers the plumbers, the electricians, the produce merchants kibitzed their way through their weekly softball 242). However, it is not simply the event of Sunday morning softball that is alike in the two accounts, but also the emotions surrounding the games. Roth continues in The Facts have done better than to get down on my hands and knees and kiss the ground behind But I believe ve could be inferred without having such handy corroborating evidence as The Facts by comparing the representation of baseball in and The Counterlife to alleviating conflict and as a symbol of the best parts of growing up American suggests that he may thereby be representing his own feelings about the game ;

PAGE 32

32 however, more specific evidence can be found in the commonalities in the descriptions of playing baseball in each of the novels. Both nov els represent a center fielder, in particular, experiencing ecstatic joy in chasing long fly balls and making difficult catches, robbing batters of home runs. In Portnoy describes making a I got it, I got it easily and gracefully toward that wire fence .and then that delicious Di Maggio sensation of grabbing it like something heaven sent player who stole what would h ave been a game winning home run from DiMaggio in sounds quite similar recklessly into the air, his long left arm extended high nd thus winning the pennant for the Jerusalem Gi ants. T he repetition of such feelings of elation in playing baseball indicates that Roth may be representing his own love of the sport in these scenes. And although such a cl aim cannot be corroborated on the basis of his extant autobiographical works, I would bet that Roth was once a center fielder himself.

PAGE 33

33 LIST OF REFERENCES Abramowitz, Martin. Introduction. Jews and Baseball By Burton A. Boxerman and Benita W. Boxerman. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co, 2007. Boxerman, Burton A, and Benita W. Boxerman. Jews and Baseball Jefferson, N .C: McFarland & Co, 2007. Giamatti, A B. Take Time for Paradise : Americans and Their Games New York: Summit Books, 1989 Journal of Popular Culture 15.3 (1981): 112 118. Web. 4 Jan. 2011. Hechter, W., and P. Miller (Producers), & Miller P. (Di rector). (2011). Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story [Motion picture] United States: Clear La ke Historical Productions. American Pastoral Narrative 12.3 (2004): 233 248. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. Rich, Tracey. Judaism 101 Tracey R. Rich, (1995 2008). Web. 25 Jan. 2011. < http://www.jewfaq.org/index.htm >. Sports and the A merican Jew Ed. Steven A. Riess. Syracuse, NY: Syracu se University Press, 1998. 1 59 American Pastoral and I Married a Communist Philip Roth: New Perspectives on an American Author Ed. D erek Parker Royal. Westport, CT: Praeger P ublishers, 2005. 185 207. Roth, Philip. American Pastoral 1997. New York: Vintage, 1998. The Counterlife 1996. New York: Vintage, 1986. The Facts 1997. New York: Vintage, 1988. The Great American No vel 1995. New York: Vintage, 1973. Our Gang New York: Random House, 1971. Patrimony 1996. New York: Vintage, 1991. 1994. New York: Vintage, 1967. Reading Myself and Others New York: Vintage, 2001.

PAGE 34

34 Shostak The Counterlife Modern Fiction Studies 37.2 (1991): 197 215. Web. 3 March 2011. The Great American Novel Contem porary Literature 17.2 (197 6): 171 190. Web. 18 Jan. 2011.

PAGE 35

35 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Adrienne Reev es Gower was born in 1983 in Montgomery, Alabama She grew up primarily in Madison, Alabama and graduated from Bob Jones High School in 2002. In 2006, s he graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Arts in Englis h from Auburn University, where she was a valuable member of the Auburn Rowing Team In the spring of 2011, Adrienne received her Master of Arts in English from the University of Florida, where she studied 20 th century American literature. S ince 2007, s he has been married to Michael John Gower, M.D.