This talk examines the role of Jewish folk traditions and memory in the picture books of the late Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), with special attention to Sendak’s handling of landscape and natural elements. Sendak’s own biography reflects a move in the 1970s from the urban spaces of Brooklyn and Manhattan to the forested landscape of Ridgefield, Connecticut. His work speaks to the experience of first-generation children of immigrants in early twentieth-century America, drawing on a Yiddish-inflected upbringing, a troubled early consciousness of Nazi Europe and the Holocaust, inherited memories of destroyed worlds, and other elements that exceed national boundaries. Moskowitz argues that Sendak’s work values the “wildness” of the natural world, allegorizing it as a stand-in for the emotional interior of the sensitive human child.
Golan Moskowitz is Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies at Tulane University, where he teaches courses on Jewish gender and sexuality, American pop culture, Holocaust studies, and comics and graphic novels. He is the author of Wild Visionary: Maurice Sendak in Queer Jewish Context (2020) and of several publications on intergenerational memory in post-Holocaust family narratives.