Defending Haskalah Poetry on its Own Turf: Poetry, Time, and the Deconstruction of Selfhood in Mikhal Shlomo's Vekohelet

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Abstract

This article revisits the difficulty encountered by scholars who study the rise of romanticism in nineteenth-century Hebrew poetry. Taking issue with both romantic and structuralist readings of the poetry of Micah J. Lebensohn (Mikhal) and paying particular attention to Joseph Ha'efrati's attack on Haskalah poetry, this new examination of Mikhal's seminal Shlomo vekohelet shows, first, that inscriptions of romantic subjectivity are not only present in Mikhal's work, but are also critiqued and ironized. Read closely as an (auto)biographical poem, the article demonstrates that Mikhal's narration of Solomon's career as a poet begins with a depiction of what amounts to a Wordsworthian experience of self, but ends with an assault on the "egoistical sublime," typical of early romantic poetry. Second, the article attempts to defend Haskalah poetry from critical skepticism. Challenging the structuralist premises employed by recent scholars, the article shows how Mikhal's poetry uses the best resources of language, rhetoric and the experience of time for unsettling, rather than tendentiously promoting, as the common accusation goes, the basic tenets of Haskalah ideology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-136
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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