Organizers Bios


Ilana Szobel

Hamutal Tsamir

Verses of Longing Workshop

Desire and Gender in Modern Hebrew Literature
The Brandeis-BGU International Workshop for Scholars

Organizers: Ilana Szobel and Hamutal Tsamir

Tuesday and Wednesday, October 1-2, 2013
Jewish modernity in general, and Jewish nationalism in particular, are first and foremost movements, in the most literal sense—signifying changes in time, space, and meanings of individuals and collectives, motivated by multifarious (sometimes contradictory, or seemingly contradictory) desires: the desire for ”modernity“ itself, for Enlightenment, for ”progress,” for the ”West,” for masculinity, for education, liberation and equality, for universalism, for secularity, for emotions and revival, for aesthetics, for the Hebrew language as well as for Yiddish, for a new meaning of ”Jewishness,” for the Land of Israel, for the Orient, for sovereignty, and many more. This scholar's workshop explored the ways in which Hebrew literature represents, constructs and struggles with various forms of desire, addressing the juxtaposition of poetics and desire in the context of ideology, nationalism, Judaism, modernity, sexuality, passion, and power.

In Hebrew
The workshop took place in Hebrew and included ten scholars, including Dr. Tsamir who participated via the university's "BlueJeans" video-conferencing system. 

In English: Configurations of Desire: Rethinking Hebrew Literature
Tuesday October 1

One English session was set-up to be open to the public and attracted the wider community.

Amir Banbaji, Ben-Gurion University: "The Desire for Beauty and Truth in Haskalah Aesthetic Theory"
Mikhal Dekel, City College, CUNY: "Tragedy Contra Theory: Matalon, Butler and the Critique of Zionism"
Response: Shai Ginsburg, Duke University
This workshop was sponsored by the Bronfman Philanthropies grant for the Brandeis-Israel Collaborative Research Initiative, with the support of The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and the NEJS department.


Ilana Szobel is assistant professor on the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Chair in Hebrew Literature at Brandeis University. Her recent book, A Poetics of Trauma: The Work of Dahlia Ravikovich (2013) was published as part of the Schusterman Series in Israel Studies. It examines the work of Dahlia Ravikovich (1936-2005), one of the most significant cultural figures in Israeli society. In her teaching, Szobel presents the challenges posed by gender, war and peace, family structure, economic and cultural dislocation as compelling entry points for the study of Israeli society and culture.

Hamutal Tsamir is assistant professor of Hebrew Literature at Ben Gurion University of the Negev. She studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Universite Paris VIII in St Denis, Paris, and in the Joint Doctoral Program in Jewish Studies at UC Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union. Her major fields of interest are modern Hebrew and Israeli poetry (19th-20th centuries), from the perspectives of nationalism/Zionism/Judaism and gender; literary history and theory, and women's literature. Her book, In the Name of the Land: Nationalism, Subjectivity and Gender in the Poetry of the 1950s-1960s (Keter and Heksherim, 2006) [Hebrew]. She is currently working on a second book, which attempts to gender Hebrew literary history.