Emory Report
April 23, 2007
Volume 59, Number 28

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April 23, 2007
Conference explores poetry in present-day Israeli politics, religion

by kim urquhart

How the content and structure of Israeli poetry relates to recent political and religious trends will be explored in a conference April 25–26 at the Emory Conference Center. “Poetry, Politics and Religion in Contemporary Israel” will analyze significant poetry emerging from the younger generation of Hebrew poets.

Throughout the history of the state of Israel, poets have influenced public opinion and have played a central role in Israeli politics. “Hebrew literature is an anomaly in literary history,” said conference co-organizer Shalom Goldman, professor of Hebrew and Middle Eastern studies. “Usually literature grows out of a country. In the case of Israel, because of the Zionist effort to create a national literature, you had literature before the country.”

The conference will sample “the different ideologies of Israel” with poets and publishers representing the political right, left and center to present “an in-depth and multicultural look at Israeli culture,” Goldman said. Among the featured speakers is Ambassador Reda Mansour, the Israeli consul in Atlanta. Mansour, a poet, is one of the first Israeli diplomats who is not Jewish.

Goldman also pointed to the participation of female poets and scholars in the conference. “The culture of Israeli literature had been dominated by men, but has been changing over the last few decades. That’s one of the things we want to mark at this conference,” he said.

Poems will be read in their original language, said Goldman, who will lead a poetry reading in Hebrew following the opening reception on Wednesday evening.

Free and open to the public, the conference is aimed at both an academic and general audience. Goldman encouraged the Emory community to attend. “In light of the Israel and Palestine question, and especially [the controversy generated by former president Jimmy] Carter’s book, it would be good for us to put politics aside for a few days and look at the cultural questions,” he said. “This is what Emory does best — looking at culture and looking at the politics in the context of culture.”

The Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies, Tam Institute for Jewish Studies, the Graduate Division of Religion, the Department of Religion and the Institute for Comparative and International Studies are among the sponsors of the conference. For more information contact Goldman at 404-727-2694 or slgolm@emory.edu.