On Joy: The Yiddish Art of Mel Bochner

When and Where

Monday, November 14, 2022 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm
JHB100 and online
Jackman Humanities Building
170 St. George Street, 1st floor


Sunny Yudkoff


The Moyshe and Esther Menachovsky Memorial Fund in Jewish Studies

Sunny Yudkoff (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

"On Joy: The Yiddish Art of Mel Bochner"

This lecture will explore the evolving manifestations of Yiddish in the work of Mel Bochner and in the multisite installation The Joys of Yiddish (Chicago 2006/Munich 2013). One of the founding figures of American conceptual art, Bochner has continuously re-examined the unstable nature of language. The following presentation investigates how Bochner’s postvernacular invocation of Yiddish calls into crisis this central contention of his work. The lecture takes as its focus Bochner’s adaptation of Leo Rosten’s 1968 bestselling pseudo-dictionary into public art. Extending Bochner’s painterly assertion that “language is not transparent,” this lecture asks: What about Yiddish?

Sunny Yudkoff is associate professor of Yiddish studies in the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic+, as well as the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her first book, Tubercular Capital: Illness and the Conditions of Modern Jewish Writing, was published with Stanford University Press (2019) and was awarded the AAJR Salo Wittmayer Baron Prize for the Best First Book in Jewish Studies. Her work has appeared in Prooftexts, Comparative Literature, Literature and Medicine, Word & Image, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on her second monograph, Against Jewish Humor: Toward a Theory of Yiddish Joy.


This lecture will be delivered in-person at JHB100 and virtually via Zoom. To attend virtually, please click THIS LINK on Monday, November 14 at 4 PM.

Contact Information

Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies


170 St. George Street, 1st floor