Studies in Modern Jewish Literature (JPS Scholar of Distinction Series)
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: Jewish Publication Society
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The twenty-six essays in this volume, Studies in Modern Jewish Literature, speak for themselves, each in its particular clarity and each with its own argument. Their author is bold and often unequivocal, so that commentary may not seem necessary. But the appearance of this important Jewish Publication Society collection is a good occasion to cast...
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A map is not a place and a book is not a life, but both a map and a book are texts that represent real places or persons. Maps, in fact, have always intrigued me precisely because they strive to encompass in their flatness, lines on a sheet of paper, the richly textured earth and the fullness thereof. Since they invite skilled reading to capture their mean-...
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Confluent Myths: Two Lives
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If we have learned anything from a generation of post-modern discourse which it has become so fashionable to dismiss together with all post-isms, it is the freedom and sensitivity to analyze the myths or narratives we have grown up on, to trace their constructions, their attenuations, and transformations. We now strive to situate these intimate processes in a...
LITERATURE IN ITS HISTORICAL CONTEXTS
Back to Moses: Reflections on Reflections on Freud's Reflections on Jewish History
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The apparently coincidental publication of two books, one by Y. H.Yerushalmi (Freud’s Moses), and the other by Emanuel Rice (Freud and Moses) on the role of Moses in the life and writings of Sigmund Freud, has inspired renewed interest in the Jewishness of this seemingly uncharacteristic Jew. I say “seemingly uncharacteristic Jew” for good reasons: I...
The Beilis Trial in Literature: Notes on History and Fiction
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Few years in Franz Kafka’s life have attracted as much attention as 1912, the year his art advanced from uncertain groping to structured composition. In the fall of 1912, he wrote “Das Urteil,” “Die Verwandlung,” and the initial chapters of the novel Der Verschollene (later called Amerika), whose first chapter was for years considered a separate story...
A Crusades Triptych in Modern Hebrew Literature
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He is dismayed by the thought that modern Jewish historiography, “the single most sustained Jewish intellectual effort in modern times…has impinged so little upon modern Jewish thinking and perception generally”(96). In his historiographer’s discontent, he concedes that “literature and ideology” have been far more decisive in shaping...
Kafka: The Margins of Assimilation
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The more we advance into the post-modern age, the more Kafka’s writing seems to move from the margins of our literary canon to its center. Whatever post-modernism may mean—the collapsing of categories of thought and form, heightened, articulated self-consciousness, the blurring of distinctions between subject and object, or between life and lit-...
INTERPRETATION OF TRADITIONAL TEXTS
Swallowing Jonah: The Eclipse of Parody
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Nineveh and Tarshish, understood literally or figuratively, are obvious polar opposites in the Book of Jonah. From the author’s unnamed vantage point, apparently Jerusalem, they are directions in the prophet’s career. For the reader, they are two cardinal modes of human behavior: engagement and flight. Since these two modes involve the relationship...
The Politics of Scripture: The Hasidic Tale
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The “politics of scripture” is no oxymoron, but rather a straightforward assertion that even texts deemed scriptural are the products of circumstances which can properly be termed political. This assertion collapses the traditional opposition between the political and the spiritual by calling attention to the obvious facts that one grants authority to the text,...
Folklore, Literature, and Scripture: The Bratslav Tale
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The generic title, “Folklore, Literature, and Scripture” is neither a promise of an all embracing formulation pretending to solve a series of nagging methodological problems, nor a threat of pages groaning with tiring technical terminology. It is, rather, the preface to a cumbersome subtitle, too long to publish in a program: “A Study of the Bratslav Theory of the...
ISRAEL AND ZIONISM
From Diaspora to Homeland: The Transfer of the Hebrew Literary Center to Eretz Yisrael
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The crystallization of a Hebrew cultural center in Eretz Yisrael between the two World Wars is a remarkable example of Diaspora–Homeland relationship, but it has never been satisfactorily described. There are two reasons for this: first, until recently we have not had adequate studies of what happened in the Yishuv during those years; second, the portrayal...
The New Diasporism and the Old Diaspora
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Now that diasporan studies are spreading over the land like chaff scattered by the wind, it might be helpful to revisit the Diaspora from which all notions of diaspora have been disseminated: the Diaspora of the Jews. Diasporan discourse today, deriving from post-structural and post-colonial circles, differs so radically in concept and language from traditional...
Adumbrations of the Israeli "Identity Crisis" in Hebrew Literature of the 1960s
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Towards the end of his 1965 novel, The Living on the Dead (208), Aharon Meged has the plaintiff’s lawyer, Evrat, read before the author defendant, Mr. Jonas, a transcript of a brief statement the latter had made at a party. Jonas is being charged with breach of contract: he did not write a contracted book about the prototypical Zionist hero of the...
The Impact of Statehood on the Israeli Literary Imagination
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The intimate relationship between modern Hebrew literature and the development of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael, first in the Yishuv and then in the sovereign State of Israel, is one of the fundamental, intriguing phenomena of modern Jewish history. During the pre-state period, the Hebrew literary establishment was one of the salient...
MODERN HEBREW LITERATURE
A Jewish Existentialist Hero: Agnon's "A Whole Loaf"
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Though virtually unknown outside the Hebrew reading public before he (1888–1970) had enjoyed almost unanimous critical acclaim in the Hebrew press since the 1920s. His many published volumes of novels, short stories, and folktales have attracted attention not only for their literary virtuosity, but also they deal with the vexatious problems of the...
The Evolving Masks of S. J. Agnon
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The growing interest of both the general reader and the professional literary critic in the writings of S. J. Agnon is doubtless one of the most fascinating phenomena in Hebrew literature in the twentieth century. Having first attracted considerable attention in 1908 with his story Agunot, Agnon has risen decade after decade in critical esteem. This...
The Author, His Code, and His Reader: The Kafka-Agnon Polarities
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In a retrospective article written in 1933, the addressee of this statement, “Rabbi Binyomin”¹ recalls his meetings with Agnon in Jaffa in 1908–11, when both were young, aspiring writers. In one memorable scene, the two were walking along the Mediterranean shore when Agnon protested that Mendele’s style, for all its monumental stature, did not lend itself to...
Agnon Encounters Freud
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In the engaging discussions of texts and their interpreters held over the past twenty years, the author has been treated as a nuisance or a pariah. Increasingly, the reader or critic emerges as the producer of meaning. We, the critics, either brazenly usurp the title of author or patronizingly relegate the author to a fiction of our imagination or implication. My...
OTHER HEBREW WRITERS
The Beginnings of Modern Hebrew Literature: Perspectives on “Modernity”
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The traditional opening statements in the debate concerning the beginnings of modern Hebrew literature usually assume the form of claims or accusations of paternity. Claims, if the child is legitimate; accusations, if it is not. I wish to avoid the paternity issue because, as I shall argue, it is essentially groundless and precludes consideration of other perspectives....
The Ahad Ha-Am–Berdyczewski Polarity
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A rapid reading of this brief note, one of the shortest in Ahad Ha-Am’s six volumes of letters, reveals the characteristically controlled, correct tone of his style, evident even in his letters and autobiographical writings. But there is a strange, discordant note in this brief document. The unified style both mitigates and exacerbates the internally contradictory...
The Sacralization of Language in Bialik’s Essays
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For one tutored in the “Great Tradition” of Modern Hebrew Literature, these two passages hardly need identification, for they are two of those rare, reassuring, even triumphal texts that are cultural events. In the case of the often desperate struggle on the part of a small group of passionate believers, they are texts that transcend the merely...
The Archaeology of Self Deception: A. B. Yehoshua’s Mar Mani
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Within weeks of its publication in the spring of 1990, A.B. Yehoshua’s Mar Mani (Mr. Mani) was recognized as a major achievement of modern Hebrew fiction, one that demands and deserves scrupulous critical attention. In an uncanny consonance with its internal structure and thematic system, the book has had a peculiar pre-publication and post-publication...
ANTI-SEMITISM AND HOLOCAUST
Refractions of the Blood Libel in Jewish Literature
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If this sentence were less intricate and self-conscious, one would readily identify the notions it conveys, especially in the original German, with the May 1, 1934 issue of Der Stürmer dedicated to the blood libel. The voice of this passage, however, resonates not with the strident tones of Julius Streicher, but with the carefully modulated syntax of one of this...
Scholarship as Lamentation: Shalom Spiegel on “The Binding of Isaac”
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As we approach the end of this turbulent century, it has become clear that American Jewry had come of age in the decade following World War II. A sense of belonging and confidence was engendered by a variety off actors: massive personal participation in the war effort in which specific Jewish interests, the defeat of Nazism, were roughly congruent with...
JEWISH STUDIES AND THE COMMUNITY
Our “She’ela Nikhbada:” Whose Hebrew Is It?
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The obvious reference to Eliezer Ben-Yehudah’s famous article of 1879 in my title is, of course, a self-referential rhetorical ploy. And yet, precisely because it is so obvious, you must realize that I am not interested in celebrating once again Ben-Yehudah’s signal contribution to the revival of Hebrew. His article shall serve as a foil for my remarks, for the situ-...
Jewish Literature in the University
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Let us begin with Paul, known among the Pharisees, his teachers, as Saul of Tarsus. For no discussion of any facet of Jewish intellectual history in its relationship to what is commonly called Western Civilization of the past thousand years can be historically oriented or comprehensible with-out a consideration of the role of the man who gave Christianity its...
Jewish Studies in American Liberal Arts Colleges and Universities
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The spread of Jewish studies as an accepted academic discipline in the American liberal-arts colleges and universities since the Second World War is one of the least charted areas of Jewish experience of the past two decades. While there have been any number of brief notices, usually based on the statistics first gathered by Abraham I. Katsh and Judah...
Popular Fiction and the Shaping of Jewish Identity
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The prodigious achievements of American Jews in the area of fiction since World War II are one of the phenomena commonly cited as evidence of the integration of Jews into the mainstream of American life. No account of the historical experience of American Jewry during this period is complete without the evocation of the triumvirate: Bellow,...
Publication Year: 2003