Near Eastern Languages and Cultures | S.Y. Agnon and the Jewish Experience
N695 | 28556 | Katz
What does it mean to live as a man of faith in a contemporary
world? How does that background affect oneís view as to modernity,
secularism as an alternative world-view, the issue of a liberated
woman, Zionism and progress?
These and other concerns will be represented in the writings of S.Y.
Agnon, Hebrew literatureís most insightful and talented writer.
Israelís most highly decorated story teller and Nobel Prize
laureate, S.Y. Agnon (1887-1970) composed numerous short and long
tales which mirror the dilemmas of traditional Jewish cultureís
confrontation with issues such as assimilation, secularism and
modernization of Diaspora and Israeli Jewry.
Through Agnonís sophisticated vision, we become cognizant of the
dynamics of his heroís travails who must confront the reality of
being caught in the middle, between a secure though fading world of
faith and piety and life in an environment lacking absolute truths,
certitudes, comfort and order. Agnonís fiction conveys the tensions
represented by the cultural upheavals in the experiences of
diasporic and Israeli Jewry, the life and values transformed by
circumstances around them.
Following our encounter with the world into which Agnon was born,
we will read some of his most powerful tales, those depicting the
seemingly innocent life of bygone days, though told through the
prism of a modernistís vision. We will then read works telling of
the impact of twentieth-century forces on Agnonís heroes, among them
those of the First World War, Pogroms, the Holocaust and the
existence of the state of Israel. Other themes such as love,
kindred spirits, the "agunah" (undivorced single woman) Messianism
and the hero's ambivalent stance about his surroundings will figure
centrally in our readings.
The course assumes no previous knowledge of Hebrew, Jewish
traditions or works by this writer. A desire and ability to read
are the only requisites