Signatures of Struggle

The Figuration of Collectivity in Israeli Fiction

By Oded Nir

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Literature, Jewish Studies, Israel Studies, Marxism
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Literature and Culture
Hardcover : 9781438472430, 296 pages, October 2018
Paperback : 9781438472447, 296 pages, July 2019

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Table of contents


Introduction: Periodizing Israeli Literature

1. Prehistory: Zionist Hebrew Literary Realism, between Altneuland and Khirbet Khizeh

2. From Utopian Project to Utopian Compensation in 1950s Works by Yigal Mossinsohn and Nathan Shaham

3. Then as Farce: Naturalism and Disavowed Failure in 1950s Hebrew Novels by Hanoch Bartov and Yehudit Hendel

4. Is There Israeli Postmodern Literature? Orly Castel-Bloom, Yehudit Katzir, and the Vicissitudes of National Space-Time in the 1980s and 1990s

5. Disorientation and the Genres: David Grossman, Yehoshua Kenaz, and Batya Gur

6. Time in Hiding: Israeli Fiction and Neoliberalism

7. In Search of New Time: Renarrating Soldier, Pioneer, and the Tel Aviv Subject-to-Come


A Marxist history of Israeli literature, tracing the relations between economic, social, and aesthetic transformations.


Signatures of Struggle offers a unique perspective on Israeli literature, bringing Marxist cultural critique to bear on a field from which it has hitherto been absent. Oded Nir moves beyond the dominant interpretive horizon of Israeli literary criticism: the relation of literature to national ideology. Rather than reproducing the usual narrative in which fiction resists the nation's goals, Nir demonstrates how, in each historical moment, literary engagement with national ideology is a means to think through social tensions or contradictions internal to Israeli society—to solve in imagination problems that threaten the social order. Focusing on moments of transformation, Nir argues that the 1950s crisis of realism was the result of the failure, rather than the success, of the collective transformative project of the haluzim, the settler vanguard of Zionism. In the 1980s, the postmodern turn expressed a crisis of social imagination, whose origin was the incorporation of Palestinians into the Israeli economy after the 1967 war. Finally, he shows that the ways in which history is imaginatively reworked in contemporary Israeli fiction can only be understood through the context of 1950s and 1980s literature. Authors analyzed include Yigal Mossinsohn, Nathan Shaham, Hanoch Bartov, Yehudit Hendel, Orly Castel-Bloom, Yehudit Katzir, David Grossman, Yehoshua Kenaz, and Batya Gur.

Oded Nir is Visiting Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at Franklin & Marshall College.


"…the final sections of the book constitute interesting directions that challenge previous thinking and leave the reader with a whole set of new questions as to the future of Israeli culture and the road this literature will take. " — H-Net Reviews (H-Judaic)

"Nir's mastery of relevant studies on Hebrew literature is impressive, as is his erudition when it comes to theoretical works. His textual analyses are insightful and original. The book makes a tremendous contribution to literary scholarship, but it is also one of the most important contributions to the entire field of Israel studies in this century. " — Eran Kaplan, author of Beyond Post-Zionism

"This is a well-written, brilliantly conceptualized project. I have little doubt it will change the way Zionist historiography and the history of Hebrew literature will be discussed. " — Nitzan Lebovic, author of Zionism and Melancholy: The Short Life of Israel Zarchi