Summer 2007

HUMS 634
Contemporary Israeli Fiction: Writing the Nation


06/25/2007 - 08/03/2007
Tuesday & Thursday 06:00 PM - 08:30 PM

Israeli fiction can be taken as a test case for the possibility of a national narrative in which the actions of individuals enact and allegorize the people as an actor in history. Such narratives presuppose a certain alignment between politics and culture such that a coherent sequence of public events is registered by and shapes private experience. It then follows that when private experience resists the logic of public events such narratives are experienced as artificial, even violent impositions on individual freedom. One powerful account of Israeli culture, associated with post-Zionist interpretations of Israeli history, contends that this is in fact the defining feature of contemporary Israel. Another account would suggest that while new ways of mapping public upon private experience may look like a disarticulation of these levels they may in fact simply be taking into account the complications of history. To put it another way, what looks like an abandonment of origins might in fact be a way of soliciting those origins' capacity for self-questioning.

This course will engage a series of literary mappings of contemporary Israeli experience with this question in mind. We will focus, in particular, on intersections of the sacred, on the one hand, and individual loss and desire, on the other, as suggesting new ways of representing the relation between private and public domains of experience. The sacred, we might say, while thoroughly marginalized by post-Zionist narratives was always highly problematic for the dominant strains of classical Zionism as well, except for when channeled into normative national political forms. The individual as site of loss and desire, meanwhile, while suppressed by nation building Zionism, has been celebrated by post-Zionism insofar as it indicates the need for post-national agencies. It is the articulation of these incorrigible forms of experience within a national frame, though, that accounts for much of the most vigorous literary experimentation with emergent forms of identity in Israel today.

Major readings include Michal Govrin, The Name; Shulamit Hareven, Thirst: the Desert Trilogy; Yoel Hoffman, The Shunra and The Schmetterling; Haim Sabato, Adjusting Sights; Zeruya Shalev, Husband And Wife.

Students are responsible for several short essays and a final paper.

Adam Katz (BA SUNY Stony Brook; MA Hebrew University; PHD Syracuse University) is author of Postmodernism and the Politics of "Culture" (Westview Press, 2000).


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Shulamith Hareven, THIRST: THE DESERT TRILOGY (Mercury House), Paperback

Yoel Hoffman, THE SHUNRA AND THE SCHMETTERLING (New Directions), Paperback

Alona Kimchi, LUNAR ECLIPSE (Toby Press), Paperback

Haim Sabato, ADJUSTING SIGHTS (Toby Press), Paperback

Zeruya Shalev, HUSBAND AND WIFE: A NOVEL (Grove Press) Paperback


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