February 22, 2005

Hebrew literature examined

Amir Eshel, a professor of Hebrew Literature at Stanford University, gave a speech Monday evening at the Oriental Institute entitled, "Writing the Unsaid: Israeli Prose and the Question of Palestinian Flight and Expulsion." Approximately 30 people attended the event.

Quoting from The Story of Hirbet Hizah by S. Yizhar, and Facing the Forests, by A.B. Yehoshua, Eshel spoke about the ability of literature to create a shared verbal space in which to explore conflicting narratives.

"Literature offers us a way to understand complexities rather than simply back up our own views and notions," Eshel explained. He added that, at Stanford, students sometimes enter his courses on Hebrew Literature with ideological bents of all types, and that he sees his responsibility as professor to suggest alternative views. "The realities in which we live are more complex than they seem. In class, I ask my students to accept the possibilities," he said, calling literature a "terrific" vehicle for doing so.

Paul Mendez-Flor, professor at the Divinity School, said that Eshel's talk was part of an interview process to find a replacement for the Henry Crown Professorship of Hebrew Literature. Menachem Brinker, who currently holds the professorship, will be leaving the University at the end of this academic year.

Eshel will speak again on Tuesday at 4:30 in the Oriental Institute Hebrew about Israeli poet Hayyim Nahman Bialik's "The Pool."