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Time and the Global Contemporary in Hebrew Literature

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Organizer: Oded Nir

Co-Organizer: Karen Grumberg

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Explorations of temporality in literature, Hebrew literature included, are nothing new. But so far there have been very few attempts to think about temporality in Hebrew literature in the context of what is often today called “the global contemporary”: imagining every cultural context to be sharing the same instantaneous “now,” making it impossible to distinguish between different cultural moments, and positing the immediate and full presence of everything--an eternal present transparent to all. This seminar follows the lead of Sarah Brouillette, Mathias Nilges, Emilio Sauri, and others in taking a critical position towards such contemporaneity, tracing its emergence to neoliberal capitalism. Against this background of global “now,” the exploration of the presence (or absence) of time and temporality in Hebrew literature gains new significance. It allows us to see to what degree Hebrew literature is dominated by timelessness, uses it as a critical instrument, or tries or resist it. Arguably, Hebrew literature offers a unique test case for the contemporary: First, the peripherality of Hebrew literature can function as an interesting vantage point from which to examine this evacuation of time. And second, since Hebrew literature preexists Israeli or Zionist temporal imaginaries, the non-national time of pre-state literature can be interestingly contrasted to its absence in contemporary Hebrew literature. The results of such exploration can be interesting far beyond the localized Israeli context.

Paper proposals are invited to engage with these, and related, questions: How is time articulated in contemporary Israeli literature? Does the presence of time in Hebrew literature affirm or challenge total contemporaneity? How can we compare the appearance of  time in Hebrew literature to the way it appears in other literatures? What alternative histories does Hebrew literature imagine, and how do these challeמge absolute contemporaneity? How do different gender and ethnic subject positions unique to Israeli literature imagine their time? How does the peripherality of Hebrew literature , both culturally and materially, affect the way time is expressed in its contents and forms?  How can we interestingly contrast pre-state Hebrew literary temporalities--related as they are to different religious life-worlds and territorial imaginaries--to other literary articulations of time?


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