Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Comparative Literature and Literary Theory

First Advisor

Kevin M. Platt

Abstract

My dissertation chronicles the birth and development of Russian-Israeli cultural production over the past forty years. Focusing on Soviet émigrés to Israel, it reorients the question of Russian-Jewish cultural identity by steering clear of simplistic explanatory mechanisms that conceive “Russianness” and “Jewishness” as stable categories across time, space, and people. Instead, it demonstrates that the social engineering of Jewish life that took place during the Soviet century was definitive for both the enormous scale and the character of cultural production by Russian-speaking Jews after their relocation to Israel, and has contributed in cardinal fashion to the formation of the distinctive identification of Russian-Israelis. Throughout the dissertation, I interrogate three subjects that occupy a privileged place in contemporary Russian-Israeli literature and culture—history, religion, and cosmopolitanism. I argue that these subjects are important because they correspond to three possible solutions to the “problem” of Russian identity in Israel. In the first chapter, I demonstrate how engagement with Soviet-Jewish history has allowed Russian-speaking authors and artists to articulate their Jewishness in a manner that is legible to Israeli and Western audiences, in earlier decades by situating their peculiar history and memory within the broader history of Jewish victimhood and in more recent years by departing from it. In the second chapter, I consider the overlooked phenomenon of Jewish religious revival among former Soviet immigrants to Israel and focus on the peculiar intersection of religious identification and far-right politics in Russian-Israeli literature and cinema. In the final chapter, I analyze the way russophone artists use a strategy of cosmopolitanism as a way of breaking loose from Israel’s and Russia’s national modes of identification by privileging the global over the local. I conclude by considering the prospects of Russian-Israeli literary and visual art in Israel in the future.

Embargoed

Available to all on Tuesday, December 21, 2021

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