Nostalgia as a Literary Device: Gabriel Preil's Diasporic Condition*

From: Hebrew Studies
Volume 58, 2017
pp. 401-424

National Association of Professors of Hebrew colophon
Abstract

Abstract:

This article sheds light on an important and previously unexplored aspect of the oeuvre of the prolific Hebrew-American poet Gabriel Preil (1911–1993). The essay argues that Preil elaborated a lyrical theory of nostalgia in his poetry, which was unique for Hebrew literature both in its scope and its poetic depth. Building on an interdisciplinary corpus of nostalgia research developed by such scholars as Linda Hutcheon, Svetlana Boym, and Nicholas Dames, I trace the poetic-historical development of Preil's nostalgic thinking over almost five decades of his writing in Hebrew.

In the first part of the article, I focus on Preil's early poetry to demonstrate that he found in nostalgic discourse a partial poetic solution for reflecting on the post-war historical condition. In the second part of the article, I draw on recent theories of diaspora developed by scholars such as Daniel and Jonathan Boyarin, as well as Lily Cho, to argue that, starting in the 1970s, Preil attributed a radically new function to nostalgic discourse—namely, it became a literary device through which he constructed and represented his diasporic literary subjectivity.


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