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Kamran Scot Aghaie, Chair CAL 528 | 204 W 21st St F9400 | Austin, TX 78712-1029 • 512-471-3881

Spring 2005

MES 325 • Mizrahi Writing in Israel

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39650 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
SZB 434

Course Description

In its first decades, Israel was constantly asked to legitimize its existence. It did so partly by cultivating acommon language, common traditions, and common customs, effectively creating an artificial cultural homogeneity. Most of the Zionist founders of Israel, for specific historical reasons, were Ashkenazim (ofEuropean origin). They discouraged associations with Arab customs and traditions, and created an Israeliculture largely based on European sensibilities. This Zionist erasure of cultural difference, which aimed to create a new national Jewish culture, is reflected in much of contemporary Israeli literature. Thus, theexperience of the German-born poet Yehuda Amichai is not interpreted as a particular one but rather asrepresentative, while that of the Iraqi-born novelist Sami Michael is particularized as Mizrahi (of MiddleEastern or Arab origin). Nevertheless, Michael, like Orly Castel-Bloom and Ronit Matalon, is highlyregarded in Israel. This fact reflects the complexities inherent in the Israeli national narrative that hashistorically excluded non-European Jews from its imagination but which ostensibly embraces all Jews. This course will examine the writing of Israeli Jews from non-European cultural and ethnic backgrounds.While, by the 1970s, they constituted a demographic majority in Israel, their voices remained largelyunheard until very recently, not only internationally but even within Israel itself. We will consider the relationship of Mizrahi writers to their Arab backgrounds, explore their place within the Zionist meta-narrative that only selectively included them, and consider the way these two factors contribute to theirwriting. We will also focus on their use of Hebrew: does it differ from the language of "conventional" Hebrew literature? Besides the themes, which often portray underrepresented experiences of being Israeli,how does their structure and style contribute to the project of representation? In sum, how do their works fitinto and affect the rubric of "Israeli literature?"

Grading Policy

Participation: 30% Brief reading responses: 20% Paper 1, 5-6 pages: 20% Paper 2, 8-9 pages: 30% * for graduate students, the final grade will be made up of 40% participation and 60% final paper (20pages).


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