Agnon’s Moonstruck Lovers: The Song of Songs in Israeli Culture
-Robert Alter, University of California, Berkeley
Pardes, Ilana. Agnon’s Moonstruck Lovers. The Song of Songs in Israeli Culture, Samuel and Althea Stroum Lectures in Jewish Studies. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014.
Agnon’s Moonstruck Lovers explores the response of Israel’s Nobel laureate S. Y. Agnon to the privileged position of the Song of Songs in Israeli culture. Standing at a unique crossroads between religion and secularism, Agnon probes the paradoxes and ambiguities of the Zionist hermeneutic project. In adopting the Song, Zionist interpreters sought to return to the erotic, pastoral landscapes of biblical times. Their quest for a new, uplifting, secular literalism, however, could not efface the haunting impact of allegorical configurations of love. With superb irony, Agnon’s tales recast Israeli biblicism as a peculiar chapter within the ever-surprising history of biblical exegesis.
1. Introduction: Upon the Handles of the Lock
2. The Song of Songs as Cultural Text: From the European Enlightenment to Israeli Biblicism
3. Rechnitz’s Botany of Love: The Song of Seaweed
4. The Biblical Ethnographies of “Edo and Enam” and the Quest for the Ultimate Song