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Place and Ideology in Contemporary Hebrew Literature

Karen Grumberg

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Belletristik / Essays, Feuilleton, Literaturkritik, Interviews


John Brinckerhoff Jackson theorized the vernacular landscape as one that reflects a way of life guided by tradition and custom, distanced from the larger world of politics and law. This quotidian space is shaped by the everyday culture of its inhabitants. In Place and Ideology in Contemporary Hebrew Literature, Grumberg sets anchor in this and other contemporary theories of space and place, then embarks on subtle close readings of recent Israeli fiction that demonstrate how literature in practice can complicate those discourses. Literature in Israel over the past twenty-five years tends to be set in ordinary spaces rather than in explicitly, ideologically charged locations such as contested borders and debated territories. Rarely taking place in settings of war and political violence, it depicts characters’ encounters with everyday places such as buses and cafés as central to their self-conception. Yet in academic discussions, the imaginative representations of these sites tend to be neglected in favor of spaces more overtly relevant to religious and political debates.

To fill this gap, Grumberg proposes a new understanding of how Israeli identity is mapped onto the spaces it inhabits. She demonstrates that in the writing of many Israeli novelists even mundane sites often have significant ideological implications. Exploring a wide range of authors, from Amos Oz to Orly Castel-Bloom, Grumberg argues that literary depictions of vernacular places play a profound and often unidentified role in serving or resisting ideology.

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literary criticism, Jewish studies