Bialik, the Hebrew Bible and the Literature of Nationalism
This book explores the life and poetry of Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873–1934) in the context of European national literature between the French Revolution and World War I, showing how he helped create a modern Hebrew national culture, spurring the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language.
The author begins with Bialik’s background in the Tsarist Empire, contextualizing Jewish powerlessness in Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth century. As European anti-Semitism grew, Bialik emerged at the vanguard of a modern Hebrew national movement, building on ancient biblical and rabbinic tradition and speaking to Jewish concerns in neo-prophetic poems, love poems, poems for children, and folk poems. This book makes accessible a broad but representative selection of Bialik’s poetry in translation. Alongside this, a variety of national poets are considered from across Europe, including Solomos in Greece, Mickiewicz in Poland, Shevchenko in Ukraine, Njegoš in Serbia, Petőfi in Hungary, and Yeats in Ireland. Aberbach argues that Bialik as Jewish national poet cannot be understood except in the dual context of ancient Jewish nationalism and modern European nationalism, both political and cultural.
Written in clear and accessible prose, this book will interest those studying modern European nationalism, Hebrew literature, Jewish history, and anti-Semitism.
Introduction: Bialik and National Poetry 1789-1914 1. The Jews under Tsarist Rule: Between Hope and Despair 2. Bialik and National Poetry in the Tsarist Empire 3. Bialik, Nationalism and the Hebrew Bible 4. From the Bible to Bialik: Poetry of Zion 5. Between the Hebraic and the Greek: Bialik and Tchernichowsky 6. Bialik, Aggadah and Jewish National Identity 7. Anti-Semitism and Hebrew Poetry: 1881-1948 8. Bialik, Wordsworth and the Romantic Agony 9. Bialik and Freud: Childhood Screen Memories 10. Childlessness and the Waste Land: Bialik and T.S. Eliot 11. The Artist as Nation-Builder: Bialik and Yeats Conclusion: Damaged Archangels and Charismatic National Poets