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THE ROLE OF HEBREW LITERATURE IN THE FORMATION OF JEWISH NATIONAL IDENTITY A Symposium A nation, or religion, or ethnic group, inevitably defmes itself through the stories it tells itself about itself, whether these belong to the realm of history, or myth, or fact, or fiction. We learn what we are by hearing what we were, and we maintain continuity through the generations by passing our stories to our children. The role of Hebrew literature in this process of progressive self-defmition was explored in a symposium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on March 28, 1999, sponsored by the Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies. The lecturers addressed the question: How has Hebrew literature served to create and express a national Jewish identity at key junctures in history? These are: (1) The fonnation of ancient Israel (Peter Machinist) (2) The development of rabbinic Judaism after the destruction of the Second Temple (Daniel Boyarin) (3) The origination of modem secular Zionism (Dan Miron) (4) The modem State of Israel (Yael Zerubavel). The following four essays are based on lectures given at the symposium. ...


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