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The Land as Woman: The Afterlife of a Poetic Metaphor in Women’s Modern Hebrew Poetry

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Join IIJS for the inaugural Miron Lecture on Jewish Literature with Prof. Chana Kronfeld.

The Land-as-Woman is one of the most deeply rooted metaphorical systems in Jewish as well as Western and Middle-Eastern cultures, used to support the discourses of colonialism and nationalism throughout history. It has its origins in the Hebrew Bible, where the male prophet, ventriloquizing a male God, addresses Zion as his beloved – but more often as his unfaithful - wife, thus linking idolatry with adultery and whoredom (zenut). In modern Hebrew poetry, the male poet lays claim to this biblical trope, but now within a secular, nationalist “conquest” of the Land-as-Woman. Prof. Kronfeld explores what happens when modernist women poets critique a tradition that views women always as metaphors, never as literal subjects. Kronfeld describes the revolutionary work of modern Hebrew womenpoets who develop a new erotics of address to the land that calls into question patriarchal models of conquest and subjugation.

Co-sponsored by Columbia University’s Center for Comparative Literature and Society.

Supported by the generosity of the Knapp Family Foundation.

Chana Kronfeld is a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at the University of California Berkeley. Professor Kronfeld is the author of On the Margins of Modernism: Decentering Literary Dynamics which won the MLA Scaglione Prize in 1996 for Best Book in Comparative Literary Studies. Her co-translation (with Chana Bloch) of Yehuda Amichai’s Open Closed Open won the PEN Translation Prize. She is the recipient (with Chana Bloch) of the top 2005-6 National Endowment for the Arts award for the translation and annotated edition of Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch (N.Y. W.W. Norton, 2009). She’s the author, most recently, of The Full Severity of Compassion: The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai (Stanford, 2016). Her contributions (with Chana Bloch) to Robert Alter’s The Poetry of Yehuda Amichai (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015) include an expanded edition of Open Closed Open. Benjamin Harshav’s Hebrew-Yiddish volume, Kol Ha-Shirim, is her most recent collaborative project (with Udi Hrushovski; Carmel, 2017).

Additional Information: Seating will be available on a first-come first-served basis. Doors open at 5:45 pm.