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Rhetoric and Nation

The Formation of Hebrew National Culture, 1880-1990

by Shai Ginsburg

Publication Year: 2014

Recent and commonly accepted criticism holds that written and spoken Hebrew reveals a shared logic, a collective rhetoric that is identifiable and can be traced as an evolving phenomenon throughout the centuries. In Rhetoric and Nation, Ginsburg charts the emergence and formation of the Hebrew discourse of the nation from the late nineteenth century through the late twentieth century. In doing so, he challenges these notions of a common rhetoric by considering three areas of writing: literature, literary and cultural criticism, and ideological and political writings. Ginsburg argues that each text presents its own singular logic. Some writing is determined by social and historical context. Other writings are determined by the biographies of their authors, still others by genre. Through close readings of key canonical texts, Rhetoric and Nation demonstrates that the Hebrew discourse of the nation should not be conceived as coherent and cohesive but, rather, as an assemblage of singular, disparate moments.

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Series: Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and the Arts


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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright, Dedication, About the Author

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

This book originated in a series of debates I had with my friends at the University of California and the Graduate Theological Seminar in Berkeley during my stay there in 1998. For their continued hospitality and intellectual stimulation, I am thankful to Amir Banbaji, Ayelet...

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pp. 1-34

In 1894, Hayyim Nahman Bialik (1873–1934), who would soon be crowned poet laureate of Jewish nationalism, published his Hebrew poem “Birkat ‘Am” (Blessing of the People). The poem, popularly known by its opening Hebrew words as “Teḥezakna” (Be Strong), was...

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1. Politics and Letters

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pp. 35-74

In june 1891, a series of five installments under the title of “Emet me-Eretz-Yisrael” (Truth from the Land of Israel), signed by “Aḥad Ha-Am” appeared in the St. Petersburg Hebrew paper ha-Melitz. The series summarized the author’s impressions of his journey to the Ottoman...

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2. Language and Pedagogy

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pp. 75-107

in 1896, Theodor Herzl, founder and leader of the Zionist movement, published in German his nationalist manifesto Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). In this manifesto, he touches briefly on the question of the language of the future Jewish state...

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3. Literary Criticism as Nationalist Cartography

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pp. 108-152

On September 30, 1887, a first installment of Eliezr Ben-Yehuda’s (abridged) translation of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours appeared in his Jerusalem weekly ha-Tzevi under the title Sviv ha-Aretz bi-Shmonim Yom (Around the World in Eighty>...

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4. The Rhetoric of Historical Anxiety

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pp. 153-194

As part of Scholem’s narrative of his 1923 immigration to Mandatory Palestine, these sentences transcribe the map of Jewish nationalist migration onto the field of history: the move from Central Europe to the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean traces not so much a spatial...

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5. History and Myth

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pp. 195-228

In 1917, the central board of ha-Shomer youth movement in Vienna— one of the precursors of ha-Shomer ha-Tza‘ir—published a handbook for the movement’s youth guides. The handbook set its pedagogic mission against the figure of the exiled Jew...

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6. History and Mourning

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pp. 229-265

“I am opposed to Jewish history,” states Yudke, the protagonist of the 1942 short story “ha-Drasha” (The Sermon) by Hayyim Hazaz (1898–1973).1 Struggling to explain himself, he continues: “We really don’t have history at all . . . we never made our...

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7. National Aesthetics in Crisis

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pp. 266-297

The fifth Zionist congress in Basel in 1901 saw the first exhibitions of work by Jewish artists in a national context in central Europe.1 On this occasion, the philosopher Martin Buber (1878– 1965) addressed the Congress on the importance of art for the...

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8. The Tussle with the Zionist Dream

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pp. 298-335

In “the petit-bourgeois malady,” Amos Oz writes: “I think that the real schism between the Labor Movement and the Revisionists was—over the relation to reality. The Labor Movement, in all its shades and trends, always had a deep respect for facts. That was...

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9. A Sentimental Journey

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pp. 336-371

The role played by Friedrich Schiller’s aesthetics in the formation of the European modern nation state has often been noted.1 In this chapter I shall argue that it has also been central to the Hebrew discourse of the nation, formed under the imprint of European cultural criticism.2...

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pp. 372-383

In the course of this book, I sought to examine the language of the Hebrew discourse of the nation, highlighting the uncertainty and anxiety that haunt it. I sought to expose the ways in which this uncertainty informs the positions, narratives, and identities produced...


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pp. 385-444


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pp. 445-473

About the Author, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780815652427
E-ISBN-10: 0815652429
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815633334
Print-ISBN-10: 0815633335

Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and the Arts
Series Editor Byline: Harold Bloom, Ken Frieden See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 881504644
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rhetoric and Nation

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Subject Headings

  • Hebrew literature -- History and criticism.
  • Israeli literature -- History and criticism.
  • Jewish literature -- History and criticism.
  • Zionism and literature.
  • Nationalism and literature.
  • Shamir, Moshe, 1921-2004. Hu halakh ba-śadot.
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