A Poetics of Trauma: The Work of Dahlia Ravikovitch
The work of renowned Israeli poet, translator, peace activist, and 1998 Israel Prize laureate Dahlia Ravikovitch (1936–2005) portrays the emotional structure of a traumatized and victimized female character. Ilana Szobel’s book, the first full-length study of Ravikovitch in English, offers a theoretical discussion of the poetics of trauma and the politics of victimhood, as well as a rethinking of the notions of activity and passivity, strength and weakness. Analyzing the deep structure embodied in Ravikovitch’s work, Szobel unearths the interconnectedness of Ravikovitch’s private-poetic subjectivity and Israeli national identity, and shows how her unique poetics helps readers overcome cultural biases and sympathetically engage otherness.
"Scholars of modern Hebrew literature all agree that Ravikovitch's poetry towers above any [Hebrew] poetry written by a woman that emerged in the State of Israel, and that she is one of its leading poets, along with the likes of Yehudah Amichai and Nathan Zach. This book thus introduces the English reader to some of the best poetry created in the twentieth century... Szobel's groundbreaking book is innovative, profound, extremely intelligent and captivating."
Nili Scharf Gold, University of Pennsylvania
Ilana Szobel is assistant professor on the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Chair in Hebrew Literature at Brandeis University. She received her doctorate from the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University.
A Poetics of Trauma is published jointly with Hadassah-Brandeis Institute's Series on Jewish Women.
Szobel, Ilana. A poetics of trauma: the work of Dahlia Ravikovitch. Brandeis, 2013. 177p bibl index afp ISBN 9781611683547, $85.00; ISBN 9781611683554 pbk, $35.00; ISBN 9781611683561 ebook, $34.99
The subject of this illuminating study by Szobel (Brandeis Univ.) is the influential Israeli poet and peace activist Dahlia Ravikovitch, winner of Israel's most distinguished literary awards and member of the "Generation of the State," a group of writers who came of age in the period following the establishment of the modern state of Israel. Szobel reads both poetry and short fiction in relation to Ravikovitch's affinity for her predecessors and her deviation from the stylistic norms of her generation. Strongly influenced by gender, psychoanalysis, and trauma theories of Michael Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, and Shoshanna Felman, Szobel analyzes the writer's exploration of personal and national trauma and disaster. This first book-length study in English admirably introduces not only the poet's work--now translated into 23 languages--but also the Israeli scholarship on Ravikovitch to a non-Hebrew readership. In her theoretical analysis of the poetics of trauma and the politics of victimhood, Szobel focuses on the female character's permanent victimhood in four aspects of identity formation--orphanhood, estrangement, madness, and national identity. In so doing, she creates a deviant form of subjectivity in a major departure from the Zionist expectation of healing from trauma and progression to recovery and revival. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
--S. L. Kremer, emerita, Kansas State University
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