New Article: Heyd, Agnon on the Theater

Heyd, David. “‘The House which Householders Attend’: Agnon on the Theater.” Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature 27 (2014): 185ff (in Hebrew).




In contrast to other forms of art, the theater occupies only a marginal place in Agnon’s oeuvre, as does the subject in the research literature on Agnon. However, in A Guest for the Night and in In Mr. Lublin’s Shop Agnon expresses an interesting, ironic and deep view of the theater. He joins the long philosophical tradition – from Plato to Rousseau – of critiquing the theater in terms of representation. In this view, theatrical representation is one-dimensional and shallow in articulating the relationship between reality and fiction. In contrast to the stage actors who pathetically try to represent reality and in contrast to the smug bourgeois spectators who indulge in identifying themselves on stage, the implied author (Agnon’s narrator) lives in both worlds of reality and fiction and hence can convey the artistic truth. This unique dual position is reminiscent of the position of the protagonist/narrator in A Guest for the Night who experiences both the Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora worlds. In Mr. Lublin’s Shop the theater lacks any real cathartic value, particularly when compared to the puppet theater. Following Kleist, Agnon demonstrates the power of the marionette to express beauty and grace due exactly to its non-representational immediacy. It is exempt from the deceptive character and from the moral and social defects from which the traditional theater suffers. In both novels, the critique of the theater enables Agnon to articulate his aesthetic views for himself and for his readers, clarifying the relationship between his culturally split life and his choice of artistic modes of expression.

הד, דוד. “בית שבעלי בתים באים לשם’: עגנון על התאטרון”. מחקרי ירושלים בספרות עברית כז (2014): 185 ואילך.

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