Mysticism in Twentieth-Century Hebrew Literature

Mysticism in Twentieth-Century Hebrew Literature

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Hamutal Bar-Yosef

Series: Israel: Society, Culture, and History
ISBN: 9781936235018 (hardcover)
Pages: 444 pp.
Publication Date: December 2010

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Challenging the notion that Jewish mysticism ceased to exist in the Hassidic enclaves of early nineteenth century Europe, Hamutal Bar-Yosef delves into the mystical elements of twentieth-century Israeli literature. Exploring themes such as unity, death, and sex, Bar-Yosef traces the influence and the trends towards secular mysticism found in Russian, Yiddish, and early Hebrew writers, and examines the impact of Zionism in creating a modern, living mystical literature.


Hamutal Bar-Yosef (PhD Hebrew University) is Professor of Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of Negev. Bar-Yosef has published nine collections of poetry as well as six academic books and many articles on Hebrew literature in its European context. She translates poetry from English, French and Russian. Bar-Yosef has received the ACUM Prize (1987), the President`s Prize (2002), the Brenner Prize (2005) as well as other prizes for her poetry. Her publications include Trends of Decadence in Modern Hebrew Literature  (Jerusalem, 1997) and Symbolism in Modern Poetry (2000). She has also edited an anthology of Hebrew literature in Russian translations (RSUH, 2000).


Grounded in excellent scholarship, Mysticism in Twentieth Century Hebrew Literature is a wide-ranging and comprehensive work. Bar-Yosef is very familiar with the Hebrew literary field and draws rich portraits of 20th-century poetic circles. . . . [T]his work is a gift to the field of Jewish and Hebrew literary studies, offering as well a fruitful perspective for the study of Israeli culture through and beyond secularism.
— Galili Shahar, Tel Aviv University, Studies in Contemporary Jewry, vol. 29
Professor Bar Yosef’s monograph is the first comprehensive account of a major—though neglected—component of modern Hebrew literature, the impact of Kabbalistic and Hasidic themes. Their investigation is an important desideratum that is fulfilled here in an erudite and authoritative manner.
— Professor Moshe Idel, Hebrew University, and Hartman Institute, Jerusalem
Research in the field of literature and culture has yet to address, in any meaningful way, the question of the place of mysticism within Hebrew literature, a topic deserving of study. There have been some local, exploratory forays into the question of the mystical nature of various experiences described and designed as such in the works of specific writers. But so far, there has been no comprehensive study done that paints an entire picture of the mood, the kind of mystical experiences and given the new avenues of research introduced to us by Bar-Yosef, the contemporary and current garb worn by these mystical experiences - not limited to what is termed “the religious experience,” but rather reaching new spheres of experience, such as the collective, the erotic, and new places where the designation of a mystical experience as such is itself one of the most salient characteristics of mysticism in contemporary Hebrew literature.
— Zvi Mark, Bar Ilan University