Between Realism and Modernism: Brenner's Poetics of Fragmentation

By Hasak-Lowy, Todd | Hebrew Studies Journal, Annual 2003 | Go to article overview

Between Realism and Modernism: Brenner's Poetics of Fragmentation


Hasak-Lowy, Todd, Hebrew Studies Journal


This article first explains the fact that because of modern Hebrew literature's belated emergence as a national literature, numerous typically distinct periods or modes of fiction (in particular realism and modernism) were simultaneously available to Hebrew writers. After locating the ideological, nationalist underpinnings of realism's appeal for Hebrew writers from the Haskalah up through the turn of the twentieth century, the article turns its attention to Y. H. Brenner. Due to his fictional and non-fictional writings, Brenner is widely considered a central and foundational figure in early twentieth century Hebrew literature. His influential but elusive and often misunderstood narrative poetics are teased out of two texts which first appeared in 1911: the novel [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Mi-kan unri-kan, From here and there), and an essay, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The land of Israel genre and its accouterments). Brenner's vision of Hebrew prose in Palestine points to a unique quality of this emerging national literature, as it. perhaps paradoxically, seems equally at home in realist and modernist modes of fiction. Moreover, throughout his forays into modernist modes of fiction, Brenner maintains the deep-seated beliefs that first pointed him toward realism, namely, that literature can play a role in rehabilitating Jewish society by addressing the problems that plague it.

**********

In standard accounts of European national literatures such as German and French, realism and modernism are understood to be not only separate categories but distinct periods as well. According to such accounts, realism reaches its apex in the middle of the nineteenth century, while modernism appears near the end of the same century and finds its strongest expressions in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Yet modern Hebrew literature, and in particular Hebrew fiction, radically depart from this model, because of their belated emergence in comparison to normative European literatures. Modern Hebrew literature first surfaces in the late eighteenth century, the first Hebrew novel appears in 1853, and it only becomes a national literature in the modern sense in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Benjamin Harshav describes the compressed and hurried evolution of emerging modern Jewish literatures, of which Hebrew literature was a central component:

   Within a short time, Jewish literature attempted to catch up with
   the developments of the European literary tradition since the
   Renaissance (including its flashbacks toward classical literature)
   and to spread out over the whole range of genres, both in original
   works and in translation. And, at the same time, it endeavored to
   break through to the contemporary trends of Modernism which were
   turning that very tradition upside down. (1)

Harshav's account of this literature stresses a compression of literary development that saw Hebrew literature experiencing in perhaps only a few decades what European literature underwent over the course of a few centuries. Here, despite the break-neck pace of its development, Harshav still employs a diachronic model to explain this evolution. Later on, however, Harshav abandons this diachronic model, offering in its place an alternative spatial image, informed by a synchronic view of modern Jewish literature in which the very notion of "historical" development is no longer applicable:

   [IT]he history of European literature was discovered by Jewish
   writers at the end of its development, when it was challenged from
   within. For the exultant discoverers, that history appeared not as
   a history but as a synchronic 'imaginary museum' where all displays
   were placed in adjacent rooms, from which they could pick models
   and influences with no historical order. (2)

Harshav's synchronic model forces us to reconsider seriously what can be assumed when we invoke terms such as "realism" and "modernism" in the Hebrew context.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Between Realism and Modernism: Brenner's Poetics of Fragmentation
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.