Theses Doctoral

The path leading to the abyss: Hebrew and Yiddish in Yaakov Steinberg

Elhanan, Elazar

This dissertation explores the dynamics of identity construction and nation building in Hebrew and Yiddish literature in Russia and Poland in the decade following the 1905 revolution. It examines these dynamics through a study of the poetry of Yaakov Steinberg between the years 1903-1915. Steinberg, an important but little studied poet and writer, wrote extensively in both languages. He renounced Yiddish upon his immigration to Palestine.
Through the comparison of Steinberg's Hebrew poems and the poems he wrote in Yiddish this dissertation exposes the intricate relations between the languages and the political ideologies of Yiddishism and Zionism that accompanied them, in Steinberg's work and in general. The dissertation shows how the constitution of a modern national subject became the prime concern for these literatures, both as a general ideological demand and as a personal, emotional question.
By placing the conflict between the two language ideologies in the center of the debate, this dissertation seeks to point out to a serious methodological lacuna in the study of Hebrew literature and of Zionist history. By placing Yaakov Steinberg's poetry in a wide polyglot context and defining his bilingualism as a fundamental characteristic and a major theoretic concern, this work seeks to demonstrate the depth and span of the discourse on the future of the Jews, as individuals or as a nation, that took place in the revolutionary space of turn of the century Russia.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Miron, Dan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 7, 2014