I am the Loti Smorgon Research Professor of Contemporary Jewish Life and Culture. My research focuses on the relationship between Yiddish, English, German, and Hebrew literature and the modern world.  I teach courses on 20th century American literature considering in particular the ties between ethnicity and poverty in contemporary life.

young-lionsMy new book, Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel, is now up and listed on Amazon. See info on the book below along with some recent blurbs:

Deborah Dash Moore, Professor and Director of Jewish Studies at the University of Michigan and The New York Times best-selling author of GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation said this: “Young Lions persuasively presents a fresh interpretation that illuminates previously hidden aspects of these [novels]. Leah Garrett’s lucid study will change how we think about World War II, the Holocaust and American Jews.”

Harvard Professor of English, American and African American studies, Werner Sollers, said this: “theoretically sophisticated and probing, Young Lions is full of insights that are of interest to the literary scholar, the historian, and the student of American ethnic relations.”

Stanford Professor of Jewish Culture and History, Steven J. Zipperstein, wrote of the book: “A masterful exercise in excavation by a superb literary and cultural historian. Here is an extraordinary tour of literary terrain so familiar and accessible to the common reader and so mariginalised in literary criticism. Leah Garrett opens up for a crucial chapter in American Jewish cultural expression with consistent intelligence and infectious enthusiasm.”


I recently arranged with the Wheeler Center to have the students in my Race and Class in American Literature course have a private class and question and answer session with the prominent American author Jonathan Lethem whose novel, The Fortress of Solitude, the students studied in the class. Lethem spent a large block of time with the students answering their questions about a range of issues and discussing his writing with them.

students with Lethem

My most recent essay, ‘Joseph Heller’s Jewish War Novel Catch-22 published with the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies can be read on line here: Link here

I was recently made an Honorary Professor of History at Warwick University:

For a link to a Harvard Crimson write-up about my talk on the project at Harvard University: 


For my lecture on the project at the University of Washington you can see it on youtube, here.

Current Projects: 

I have just begun work on a new research project on the manner in which Jewish discourse, in a range of languages and mediums, wrote about post-war American suburbanization.

I am also beginning new research on comparative genocide literature looking in particular at Jewish literature in relation to Native American literature.

Wagner and the Jews:

wagnerMy last book, A Knight at the Opera, examined the relationship between Richard Wagner and major Jewish cultural figures.  I was asked to write a piece for The Guardian about whether we should divorce Wagner’s antisemitism from our appreciation of his music.  This is the tab to read the article in The Guardian:  http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/nov/20/wagner-dilemma-hate-bigotry-love-music

On Sunday November 24th, I was part of a panel at the Melbourne Town Hall partaking in an Oxford style debate run by the Wheeler Centre on the question of whether one can separate Richard Wagner’s political views from his art.  Our side won the debate, arguing that one can not separate the two.

Click here for the link to the Wheeler Centre page

On November 11, 2013, I appeared on the Radio National program “The Drawing Room” to discuss if art and politics can and should mix.  To hear the radio program:


My Books:

knight at the operaA Knight at the Opera: Heine, Wagner, Herzl, Peretz and the Legacy of Der Tannhäuser  (Purdue University Press, 2011) In this book I discuss the remarkable and unknown role that the medieval legend (and Wagner opera) Tannhäuser played in Jewish cultural life in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

Click here for the book on Amazon



the crossThe Cross and Other Jewish Stories by Lamed Shapiro, editor  (Yale University Press, 2007)  This volume that I edited focuses on the groundbreaking and controversial Yiddish writer, Lamed Shapiro, whose stories run the gamut from pogroms in Russia to hardship tales of life in New York and Los Angeles.

Click here for the book on Amazon


journeysJourneys beyond the Pale: Yiddish Travel Writing in the Modern World (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003) In this book I explore how Yiddish writers in Eastern Europe and the United States used motifs of travel to express their complicated relationships with modernization.

Click here for the book on Amazon




Current Research

I have just begun a new book project, tentatively called “Imagining the Suburb: Jewish Literature of Americanization” which is an examination of the manner in which American Jews responded to suburbanization in the Yiddish and English press, literature, television, and movies. I have received a grant from The Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture to support research on this project at YIVO during my upcoming sabbatical in New York.


  • Young Lions: How Jewish Authors Reinvented the American War Novel. Forthcoming, Northwestern University Press.
  • A Knight at the Opera: Heine, Wagner, Herzl, Peretz and the Legacy of Der Tannhauser. 2011, Purdue University Press
  • The Cross and Other Jewish Stories by Lamed Shapiro. Editor Yale University Press, 2007.
  • Journeys beyond the Pale: Yiddish Travel Writing in the Modern World. University of Wisconsin Press, 2003.


Peer Reviewed Essays

  • “Joseph Heller’s Jewish War Novel Catch-22”, Journal of Modern Jewish Studies. Published April, 2015.
  • “Young Lions: Jewish American War Fiction of 1948”, Jewish Social Studies. February 2013.
  • “Dazed and Confused: Lamed Shapiro’s New York Stories”, Studies in American Jewish Literature. September 2011.
  • “Just One of the Goys: Postwar Jewish American Literature”, AJS Review. December 2010.
  • “The Kvetcher in the Rye: J. D. Salinger and Questions of the American Jewish Canon,” in Beyond the Modern Jewish Canon: Arguing Jewish Literature and Culture, A Festschrift in Honor of Ruth R Wisse. Harvard University Press, 2008.
  • “Lamed Shapiro’s Life and Work,” in The Cross and Other Jewish Stories. Ed. Leah Garrett. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2007.
  • “Cynthia Ozick’s Envy: A Reconsideration”, Studies in American Jewish Literature. Summer 2005.
  • Landscape in the Jewish Imagination. In Studying Cultural Landscapes. Eds. Iain Robertson and Penny Richards. London: Edward Arnold Publishers. Published February 2003.
  • “Sabotaging the Text: Tannhäuser in the Works of Heine, Wagner, Herzl and Peretz”, Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society 9.1. Fall 2002. pp. 34-52.
  • “The Jewish Robinson Crusoe”, Comparative Literature 54.3. Summer 2002. pp. 215-228.
  • Yiddish Immigrant Novels and the Perils of Assimilation, Melus 26.3. Fall 2001. pp. 203-29.
  • Trains and Train Travel in Modern Yiddish Literature, Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society 7.2. Published June 2001. pp. 67-88.
  • The Wandering Jew Comes Home, Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History. Published Fall 2000.
  • The Self as Marrano in Jacob Glatstein’s Autobiographical Novels, Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History, 18.3. Published Fall 1998. pp. 207-223.
  • The Jewish Don Quixote, Cervantes, 17.2. Published Fall 1997. pp. 94-105.


Book Chapters

‘The Late Bellow: Ravelstein and the Novel of Ideas,’ The Cambridge Companion to Saul Bellow, Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming 2017.

‘The Beard Makes the Man: Bernard Malamud’s A New Life,’ Bernard Malamud: 100th Anniversary Essay Collection, Wayne State University Press, Forthcoming 2016.

‘The Kvetcher in the rye: J.D Salinger and challenges to the modern Jewish canon’, Arguing the modern Jewish canon, Harvard University Press, 2008.



Areas of Research & Supervision:

Jewish Literature and Culture, American Literature and Culture, Jewish American Literature and Culture, Travel Literature.


ATS 2500 – The 20th Century American Novel in a Period of Change

ATS 3888 – Race and Class in American Literature

ATS 3955 – Writing Destruction: The Literature of War