Near Eastern Languages and Cultures | S.Y. Agnon & the Jewish Experience
N695 | 25157 | Katz, S


Israel’s Nobel Prize laureate (1966) in literature, S. Y. Agnon (1887-
1970) is the author of some of the most insightful and amazing
stories. Many of these are a repository of memories of traditional
Jewish life in the seemingly secure comfort of faith. A second look,
however, exposes the author’s ambivalence about escape, be it only
imaginary, to such an existence. Agnon does not mince words about
sentimentalism for a lost paradise. He is a full-fledged modernist who
forces us to confront universal human questions and dilemmas.

In this course, we will be reading representative short and long works
of this multi-talented writer, works which mirror the< confrontation
between a remembered world of traditions and the present reality, one
in which modernity forces a secularization and assimilation of the
sacred into the mundane.

Through this author’s complex and sophisticated vision, we will
explore the dynamics comprising the travails of his hero—whether s/he
be in the guise of the narrator or merely a character—who must
confront the inevitable fact of having been caught in the middle,
between a secure though fading world of faith and piety, and life in
an environment deprived of absolute truth, certitudes, comfort, and order.

After a brief introductory session placing Agnon within the tradition
and conventions of Hebrew literature, we whall proceed with some of
his 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.

This course meets with JSTU L395.