Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon

Nation Building and Minority Discourse

259 pages

December, 2001

ISBN: 9780814736449


All books by Hannan Hever

A people's writings can play a dramatic role in nation building, as the development of modern Hebrew literature powerfully illustrates. Since the end of the nineteenth century, Hebrew writers in Europe and Palestine/Israel have produced texts and consolidated moments in the shaping of national identity.

Yet, this process has not always been a unified and continuous one. The processes of canon formation and the suppression of heterodox discourses have been played out publicly and vociferously. Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon offers a sweeping view of the entirety of modern Hebrew literature, from Berdichevski and Agnon to Shammas and Habiby, shedding light on the moments of rupture and reversal which have undermined efforts to construct a hegemonic Zionist narrative. It provides a model for understanding the relations between minority and majority voices in postcolonial situations, showing these processes working and changing over time, from the earliest days of the creation of a labor Zionist sensibility for literature to Israeli state culture and the discourses of Arab otherness.

By illuminating both the process of canon formation as well as the voices excluded from the canon, Producing the Modern Hebrew Canon offers a powerful alternative reading of twentieth century Hebrew fiction.


  • "In this vigorously argued and controversial study, Hannan Hever applies the insights of post-colonial theory to the case of modern Hebrew literature, which began as the writing of an imagined national community in Eastern Europe and went on to become a majority literature in Israel. Hever's erudition and conceptual powers are never less than impressive."

    —Alan Mintz, Brandeis University

  • "Since the late eighties, Hever's critical project has outlined for me not only the way I read modern Hebrew literature but also the way I read my own writing against that literature. This book not only offers a brilliant, insightful, and unsettling contemplation on the role of literary canonization and minority discourse in the construction of national imagination, but, above all, an appositional voice whose critical stance is bound to inform the work of a new generation of Hebrew scholars."

    —Anton Shammas, University of Michigan

  • "[Hever] offers an alternative reading of the historiography of Hebrew literature and of major narratives in it."

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