Near Eastern Languages & Cultures | S.Y. Agnon and the Jewish Experience
N695 | 3394 | Katz


Course Meets: 2:30 - 3:20 MWF BH 139

This course is intended to introduce students to the many features and themes of the fictional writings of
S.Y. Agnon (1888 - 1970), Israel's foremost writer and 1966 Nobel Prize laureate. We will be reading
a selection representative of Agnon's short and long stories, works which mirror traditional Jewish
culture and record the ceaseless process of assimilation, secularization, and modernization of Diaspora
and Israeli Jewry.

After a brief introductory session placing Agnon within the tradition and conventions of Hebrew literature,
we shall proceed with some of this stories which depict the seemingly innocent life of bygone days.  Under
the impact of the Enlightenment, his characters begin to exhibit "modernistic" attitudes and values, which
frequently clash with the traditions and world-views of the past.  Themes such as love, marriage, divorce,
and the author's view as to the place of the aguna (Grass-widow) will form the centerpiece of our readings
at this phase.

The impact of the First World War on East European Jewish life will be examined by a careful reading of
Agnon's central novel, A Guest for the Night.  The consequent loss of a traditional faith in the life of the
modern Jew, and Israeli, have also affected Agnon whose haunting tales of hero's lost in a chaotic,
uncertain and uncaring world - and reminiscent of Kafka's writings represent this author's concept of
contemporary life.