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War & Love: Heriosm and Anti-Heriosmin Israeli Writings

ENGL 293.401
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3:00

While the American tradition sanctifies the "pursuit of happiness," Israeli consciousness does not. The "tug of war" between the individual's right to seek happiness on the one hand, and the commitment to collective, national causes on the other, is an overarching theme in the 52-year-old Israeli literature. This struggle between passion and obligation evolves in different forms throughout the works, crosses lines of gender and genre, age and ethnic background. The constant shadow of war made "terrible flowers of love blossom" (Amichai), but led to a culture and art of perpetual repression of desire. So deeply ingrained is the superiority of national concerns that a leading Israeli critic accused the renowned author A.B. Yehoshua of "desertion" when he wrote a mere love story. The course will introduce students to works of fiction and poetry written by Israeli men and women from 1948 onward. We will analyze the different ways in which writers struggle with the fundamentals of their existence. For some, the collective "I" is in the center, while others use personal relationships as metaphors of the society. Some explore the landscapes of the self, yet others turn to the supernatural or escape altogether from the here and now. These are just a few examples of the various approaches we will examine over the course of the semester.