If you were to organize a graduate seminar around a single text what would it be?

Allison Schachter

Vanderbilt University

I would organize a course on gender and transnational Jewish modernisms centered on Leah Goldberg's 1946 modernist novel Ve-hu ha-or (And That Is the Light). Set in 1932, on the eve of the Nazi rise to power in Germany, Goldberg's novel interrogates the place of Jews in European culture and the place of women in both Jewish and European literary and artistic culture. This metaliterary novel negotiates the social and political backdrop of Jewish life in prewar Europe and engages with a range of literary traditions, including Scandinavian, Anglo-American, German, Yiddish, and Hebrew modernism. The course would investigate these different strands of Goldberg's novel, locating them in the context of her corpus as a whole, including her fascination with Christian imagery, her engagement with European Orientalism, her portrayals of female sexuality and eroticism, her depictions of mental breakdown, and her blend of impressionist and expressionist style. In addition to Goldberg we would read a selection of modernist writers with whom she is in dialogue, both in her prose and her criticism, including Henrik Ibsen, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Dovid Bergelson, Yosef Chaim Brenner, and Uri Nissan Gnessin. Placing Goldberg in dialogue with various writers and critical traditions, the course aims to rethink the boundaries of Hebrew modernism, looking at its vexed relationship to Anglo-American and European modernist movements. Moreover, we would interrogate how her relationship to all of these traditions is inflected by questions of gender. Another important aim of this course would be to situate Goldberg as a key figure of European intellectual and modernist literary history. To that end, the course would connect her to important Jewish émigré intellectuals, including Hannah Arendt and Erich Auerbach, and to the field of comparative literature more broadly.