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The Reader as Witness: “City of the Killings” and Bialik’s Romantic Historiography

  • Lilach Lachman
Chapter

Abstract

The hundred years that have passed since the Kishinev pogrom mark an epoch in the study of “City of the Killings” by Hayyim Nahman Bialik (1873–1934), and of Hebrew Romanticism in general. Now is perhaps a good moment to approach a complex of historical and poetic problems through the discussion of a single work. The questions raised by this long poem are once again resonant, although their importance may not yet have been fully absorbed.3 Of special interest is how the poem makes a correlation between Jewish history and the reader’s role in shaping it. While centering his “City of the Killings” on an anatomy of the life and death of the nation, Bialik not only urges a revival of Jewish identity, but also requires the reader’s active engagement in its construction. In the first part of my essay, I examine how Bialik’s encounter with Kishinev affected his ideological and historiographic principles, which, in turn, shaped the poetics of “City of the Killings.” In the second part, I propose that the question of Jewish history might be indispensable to the belatedness of Hebrew Romanticism. I account for Bialik’s innovation of the Hebrew long poem by reference to the interplay between his historiographie and aesthetic principles. As much as “City of the Killings” enhanced a new paradigm of action and identity, the tensions between history and aesthetics required Bialik to sever Hebrew literature from the romantic models that his own poetry had incorporated, and to reshape the existing Hebrew tradition, pushing it forward to Modernism.

Keywords

Austrian Emperor Jewish Identity Jewish History Tender Spring Romantic Model 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 4.
    Israel Halpern, ed., Sefer hagevurah: antologyah historit-sifrutit (The Book of Heroism: An historical-literary anthology), 3 vols. (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1951), 3:4–14.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    Alan Mintz, Hurban: Responses to Catastrophe in Hebrew Literature (1984; Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996), 130–132.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Meir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985), 26–31.Google Scholar
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    Hayden White, in Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973).Google Scholar
  5. 23.
    Judith Bar-El, The Hebrew Long Poem from its Emergence to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century: A Study in the History of a Genre (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1995).Google Scholar
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    Gershon Shaked, Hasiporet halvrit 1880–1970 (Hebrew narrative fiction 1880–1970) (Tel Aviv: Keter and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1977), 25.Google Scholar
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    Marshall Brown, “Romanticism and Enlightenment,” in The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism, ed. Stuart Curran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 25–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Michael Bernstein, The Tale of the Tribe: Ezra Pound and the Modern Verse Epic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980), 3–28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sheila A. Spector 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lilach Lachman

There are no affiliations available

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