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Rethinking Hebrew Literary Modernity Through Dvora Baron

Tue, December 18, 2:30 to 4:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cambridge 1

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel examines the history of modern Hebrew prose through the singular lens of Dvora Baron. We ask how does Hebrew literary history look differently when we place Baron at its center? Despite her canonicity, Baron remains curiously peripheral to the Hebrew prose canon: a woman short story writer whose work is most associated with the domestic world of the shtetl. In the 1990s and early 2000s, a new wave of Baron scholarship brought important critical attention to her work, highlighting her feminist project, her engagement with Hebrew literary norms, and her grappling with Zionist narratives. Work by Nurit Govrin, Amia Lieblich, Sheila Jelen, Shachar Pinsker, Orly Lubin, Wendy Zierler, and Naomi Seidman returned Baron to critical attention. Translations of Baron into English made her accessible to American university classrooms. However, Baron remains the female exception to the masculine norm of early-twentieth-century Hebrew prose. The papers in our panel engage this problem, by examining and taking seriously Baron’s short prose fiction, focusing on her poetics, her relationship to the European literary canon, her presentation of female community, and her self-conscious refusal of the novel. What happens to Baron’s work when we read her in explicit dialogue with Agnon, Flaubert, and with Yiddish modernism? How does modern Hebrew literary history look differently when we see Baron not as an exception, but as an innovative figure of Hebrew modernity.

Tamar Hess will speak about empathy as an axis of modernist narrative in Baron’s stories in opposition to the continuous fragmentation and straying aside of her narratives. Allison Schachter will speak about Baron’s feminist aesthetic of the everyday, and locate her work in conversation with Flaubert and twentieth-century women’s modernist writing. Wendy Zierler will read Baron through her dialogue with both Flaubert and S. Y. Agnon, countering the prior critical tendency to view her chosen genre of the short story as a limited, idyllic form.

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