Lecture on Jewish Los Angeles Series

This lecture will explore the Watts Writers Workshop, founded in the heart of Watts by Jewish American writer Budd Schulberg immediately after the Watts Rebellion of 1965 . Franco will explore how the success and final demise of the project tracks Schulberg’s shift from prose to property. Drawing on Schulberg’s archives, including lease contracts, letters, and personal notes, Franco argues that Schulberg’s personal and financial investment in Watts relocated his political standing as the “neighbor” to the Watts writers with whom he worked. However, being a neighbor exposed Schulberg to political marginality and police harassment, culminating in the FBI sabotage of the Workshop (it was burned down by an admitted FBI plant in 1973). Schulberg never fully understood his outsider-insider status, a claim Franco substantiates through a careful reading of a conversation between Schulberg and James Baldwin, where Baldwin is able to peel back the multiple layers of identity sustaining whiteness’s controlling claims on black property, thereby recalibrating what “Jewish” and “black” meant to each other in Watts and beyond.


Dean Franco (Wake Forest University)

Dean Franco is professor of English and Director of the Humanities Institute at Wake Forest University, where he teaches courses on race, ethnicity, and literature. He is the author of three monographs, Ethnic American Literature: Comparing Chicano, Jewish, and African American Writing (Virginia UP, 2007), and Race, Rights, and Recognition: Jewish American Literature Since 1969 (Cornell UP, 2012), and The Border and the Line: Race, Literature, and Los Angeles (Stanford UP, 2019). His essays on diaspora, trauma, race, religion, and theory appear in PMLA, NOVEL, Cultural Critique, MFS, and Contemporary Literature, among other journals. In 2016, he co-edited with Daliya Kandiyoti a special issue of the journal Studies in American Jewish Literature on Jewish-Muslim Crossings in the United States and the Americas.

Moderator: Michael Rothberg (UCLA)

Sponsored by the
UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies
Funding Provided by
1939 Chair
Cosponsored by the
UCLA Department Comparative Literature
UCLA Department of English