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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Introduction to Israeli Literature

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2014/2015
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year

The course offers an overview of modern Hebrew literature, from the end of the nineteenth century to contemporary writing. A wide selection of works of fiction (mostly short stories) and poetry are discussed in relation to literary and cultural movements in Israel and for their own stylistic and literary merits.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of the course a student will have read a representative selection of Israeli prose and poetry and will be familiar with the major writers and movements of Hebrew writing in Israel from the late nineteenth century up to today.

The student will be able to recognize important literary works composed in Israel and to comment on the themes and stylistic features that characterize this literature.


Two hours per week. The course is taught partly by lectures and partly by text-reading classes.

Scope and syllabus

The course begins with an overview of Modern Hebrew literature and the literature composed in the land of Israel. The course will develop chronology, but also according to themes such as the relationship between Yiddish and Hebrew literature, the Aliyah and its literary production, the place of the individual in a collective community, the relationship to the land, and the themes of the Holocaust, war, the Arab-Israeli conflict, memory, identity and the self as expressed in literature.

Among the texts that are read are:

  • Mendele Mokher Sfarim, The Travels of Benjamin the Third
  • Brenner, ‘Nerves'
  • Agnon, ‘Agunot’, ‘Hills of Sand’, ‘Tehilla’
  • Hazaz, ‘The Sermon’
  • Yizhar, ‘The Prisoner’
  • Hareven, ‘The Witness’
  • Appelfeld, 'Badenheim 1939’
  • Yehoshua, ‘End of Summer 1970’, Mr. Mani
  • Oz, 'Here and there in the land of Israel’
  • Grossman, The zig-zag kid
  • Kenaz, ‘The three-legged chicken’
  • Keret, a selection from Gaza blues: different stories
  • And poetry by Bialik, Tchernikhovsky, Goldberg, Alterman, Amichai, and Pagis

Method of assessment

Two term essays of 2500 words each, submitted by the first days of Terms 2 and 3 respectively (20% of the total mark), and one three-hour written examination in May-June (80%).

Suggested reading

  • Abramson, Glenda, The Oxford Book of Modern Hebrew Short Stories (1996)
  • Abramson, G. and D. Patterson, Boulder, eds. Transition and Trauma (1994)
  • Band, A., Nostalgia and Nightmare (1968)
  • Bargad, Warren, From Agnon to Oz: Studies in modern Hebrew literature (1996)
  • Brenner, Rachel Feldhay, Inextricably bonded: Israeli Arab and Jewish writers re-visioning culture (2003)
  • Burnshaw, Carmi and Spicehandler, The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself (1991)
  • Carmi, T., Introduction to The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse (1981)
  • Diamond, James S., Barukh Kurzweil and modern Hebrew literature (1983)
  • Domb, R., The Arab in Hebrew prose 1911-1948 (1982)
  • Domb, R. (ed.), New women’s writing from Israel (1996)
  • Halkin, S., Modern Hebrew Literature (1984)
  • Kornberg, J., At the Crossroads (1983)
  • Lapidus, Rina, Between snow and desert heat: Russian influences on Hebrew literature 1870-1970 (2003)
  • Lelchuk, A., Eight great Hebrew short novels (1983)
  • Patterson, David, A darkling plain: Jews and Arabs in modern Hebrew literature (1988)
  • Shaked, G., Modern Hebrew fiction (2000)
  • Shaked, G., Shmuel Yosef Agnon; a revolutionary traditionalist (1989)
  • Shaked, G., (ed), Lives in disguise: autobiographical fiction (2004)
  • Spacehandler, E., Modern Hebrew Short Stories (1971)
  • Spiegel, Shalom, Hebrew Reborn (1962)
  • Yudkin, L. I., Aspects of Israeli Fiction (1985)
  • Yudkin, Leon I., Beyond sequence: current Israeli fiction and its context (1992)