Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi - "Figuring Jerusalem" - Na'ama Rokem

Monday, October 24, 2022 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi
Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi will discuss Figuring Jerusalem. She will be joined in conversation by Na'ama Rokem. 

This event will be held in person at the Seminary Co-op. At this time, masks are required while in the store.


About the book: Figuring Jerusalem explores how Hebrew writers have imagined Jerusalem, both from the distance of exile and from within its sacred wallsFor two thousand years, Hebrew writers used their exile from the Holy Land as a license for invention. The question at the heart of Figuring Jerusalem is this: how did these writers bring their imagination “home” in the Zionist century? Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi finds that the same diasporic conventions that Hebrew writers practiced in exile were maintained throughout the first half of the twentieth century. And even after 1948, when the state of Israel was founded but East Jerusalem and its holy sites remained under Arab control, Jerusalem continued to figure in the Hebrew imagination as mediated space. It was only in the aftermath of the Six Day War that the temptations and dilemmas of proximity to the sacred would become acute in every area of Hebrew politics and culture. Figuring Jerusalem ranges from classical texts, biblical and medieval, to the post-1967 writings of S. Y. Agnon and Yehuda Amichai. Ultimately, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi shows that the wisdom Jews acquired through two thousand years of exile, as inscribed in their literary imagination, must be rediscovered if the diverse inhabitants of Jerusalem are to coexist.

About the author: Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi is a Chicagoan who grew up in Highland Park, and matriculated at Wellesley College, Hebrew University and Brandeis University. She taught at a number of universities in the U.S. and Canada, but her home base is Jerusalem, where she is Professor Emerita of General and Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has written on subjects ranging from representations of the Holocaust in postwar Israeli, European and American culture to the configurations of exile and diasporic compensations in classical, premodern and contemporary Jewish literature. Her books include By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature (University of Chicago Press, 1980), Booking Passage: Exile and Homecoming in the Modern Jewish Imagination (University of  California Press, 2000), and two books in Hebrew. In 2007, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi became a Guggenheim Fellow for her project on Jerusalem which was recently published as Figuring Jerusalem: Politics and Poetics in the Sacred Center (University of Chicago Press, 2022). In November, 2019, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in Jerusalem from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

About the interlocutor: Na'ama Rokem works on Modern Hebrew and German-Jewish literature. Her first book, Prosaic Conditions: Heinrich Heine and Spaces of Zionist Literature (Northwestern University Press, 2013) argues that prose - as a figure of thought, a mode and a medium - played an instrumental role in the literary foundations of the Zionist revolution. Her current book project documents a network of letters between German-Jewish and Hebrew authors (including Franz Kafka, Paul Celan, Hannah Arendt, Yehuda Amichai, Leah Goldberg, and Dan Pagis), focusing on language mixing and self-translation.

Additional current projects include the Neubauer collaborative research project The Quest for Modern Languages, and a curriculum and public history project centered on the Oak Woods Cemetery in Woodlawn, Chicago, which has been funded by the NEH and the University of Chicago Women's Board. Rokem teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on modern Jewish literature and thought, including, in the academic year 2022-2023, a graduate seminar on Art and Politics in Hannah Arendt's Thought, and a signature course on Jewish Graphic Narrative: Between Caricature and Memory.

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstore
5751 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60637