Course Archive: Fall 2006

CWL 395: Special Topics Comp Lit I: Social Change and Literary Choice:  An Introduction to Israeli Literature

Credit:   3 hours.

In Israel, a state of 7 million people, about eighty new books are published each week and 35 million books are sold on average every year.  What do Israelis read and what kind of literature do they write?  How do historical upheavals and sociological processes influence Israeli literature and in what ways are they reflected in it? Among other topics we'll discuss the great influence of socialist revolutionary ideology on early modern Hebrew writing; images of the “new Jew” and the “Jew of the Diaspora;” Holocaust literature, reflections of Israel's wars, different images of soldiers and of army service; women's army service; images of women and womanhood; the relatively late appearance of women's prose in the Israeli literary scene and the late appearance of certain genres like detective stories and science fiction.

The course will follow the movement of Israeli literature towards greater diversity in themes and style. The whole course will constantly relate to the unique quality of modern Hebrew literature:  Hebrew is more than 3,000 years old, but for about 1700 years it was rarely used as a spoken language.  Modern Hebrew writers write in a renewed language that keeps changing rapidly.  How does it affect their writing? What are their connections with Hebrew classics and what kinds of affiliations do different Israeli writers have with world literature?  How do linguistic as well as sociological changes affect literary devices and literary themes?  The course will try to suggest some possible answers.

Gail Hareven's visit is sponsored by the Program in Jewish Culture and Society and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's Israel Studies Project