The Yiddish Supernatural on Screen: Dybbuks, Demons and Haunted Jewish Pasts by Rebecca Margolis


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As a linguistic carrier of a thousand years of European Jewish civilization, the Yiddish language is closely tied to immigrant pasts and sites of Holocaust memory. In The Yiddish Supernatural on Screen, Rebecca Margolis investigates how translated and subtitled Yiddish dialogue reimagines Jewish lore and tells new stories where the supernatural looms over the narrative. The book traces the transformation of the figure of the dybbuk—a soul of the dead possessing the living—from folklore to 1930s Polish Yiddish cinema and on to global contemporary media. Margolis examines the association of spoken Yiddish with spectral elements adapted from Jewish legends within the horror genre. She explores how all-Yiddish prologues to comedy film and television depict magic located in an immigrant or pre-immigrant past that informs the present. Framing spoken Yiddish on screen as an ancestral language associated with trauma and dispossession, Margolis shows how it reconstructs haunted and mystical elements of the Jewish experience.

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