Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New
Join us for a series on S.Y. Agnon, Nobel Prize Laureate for Modern Hebrew literature. We will enjoy Agnon’s stories from a literary perspective, while unraveling the “intertexts” of classical Jewish sources from which Agnon builds his stories and explore the resonances between text and mastertext. Stories will be read in English translation, with references to the original Hebrew text – but Hebrew fluency is not required to participate. Participate in the course live in Agnon’s own house in Talpiot, Jerusalem, or via the simultaneous, interactive, online broadcast via WebYeshiva.org (sessions will be recorded and archived for those unable to join in “real time”). We recommend buying A Book That Was Lost: Thirty-Five Stories by S.Y. Agnon(http://www.amazon.com/Book-That-Was-Lost-Classics/dp/1592642543/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350392300&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Book+That+Was+Lost%3A+Thirty-Five+Stories+by+S.Y.+Agnon) (The Toby Press). [Click here for Kindle edition](http://www.amazon.com/Book-that-Was-Lost-ebook/dp/B004EHZWR6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1350391339&sr=8-3&keywords=agnon+a+book+that+was+lost)
Series 1 – The Old World 4 Sundays at 7:30 PM (Jerusalem time) / November 4, 11, 18 & 25 Each week we’ll explore a different short story of the ancestral world of Eastern Europe, examining what Agnon’s nostalgic treatment of the past is saying about our present.
Series 2 – The New World 4 Sundays at 7:30 PM (Jerusalem time) / December 30, January 6, 13 &20 Each week we’ll enter the surrealistic realm of Agnon’s collection of modern, nightmarish tales in his Sefer HaMa’asim (Book of Deeds) collection, which examine the breakdown of tradition and the shock of the modern world.
Participate at the Agnon House, 16 Klausner St., Talpiot, Jerusalem Cost: 40 NIS per session (120 NIS for each 4-part series). Student discount: half price. OR Participate online from anywhere in the world via the synchronous, interactive video conference at WebYeshiva.org/Agnon (registration required – cost: $10 per session or $36 for each series). Agnon House For more information contact: office@WebYeshiva.org / Tel. 02.5671719 OR Agnon House / firstname.lastname@example.org / Tel. 02.6716498 Agnon’s Stories of the World 1 Class $10.00 USD2 Classes $20.00 USD3 Classes $30.00 USD1 Full Series (4 classes) $36.00 USDFull Series + 1 Class $46.00 USDFull Series + 2 Classes $56.00 USDFull Series + 3 Classes $66.00 USD2 Full Series (8 Classes) $72.00 USD
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New: Lesson 1
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Series 1 Introduction- During this new round of sessions on the writings of S.Y. Agnon we will explore the two poles of “Nostalgia” (as Agnon depicts the Old World) and then “Nightmare” (as he confronts the New). Visit www.WebYeshiva.org/Agnon(https://webyeshiva.org/Agnon) for a fuller course description and schedule. During each section of the series (4-sessions dedicated to each of these two major themes) I will start with an introductory presentation followed by 3 sessions in which we will explore how that theme plays out – each meeting dedicated to one short story. I strongly recommend purchasing the collection A Book That Was Lost(http://www.amazon.com/Book-That-Was-Lost-Classics/dp/1592642543/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1351007050&sr=8-1&keywords=agnon+book+that+was+lost) (which is also available for Kindle)(http://www.amazon.com/Book-that-Was-Lost-ebook/dp/B004EHZWR6/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1351007050&sr=8-3&keywords=agnon+book+that+was+lost). All the stories we will study appear in that volume. I have borrowed the series title from Arnold Band’s important book on Agnon.(http://www.amazon.com/Nostalgia-Nightmare-study-fiction-Agnon/dp/B0006BR6CS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1351007449&sr=1-1&keywords=arnold+band+agnon) Uploaded and linked here is a short essay Band wrote (by the same title) which serves as an introduction. It covers some the things we read in the just concluded series on Agnon’s novels (click here for those 4 archived sessions)(https://webyeshiva.org/class/?cid=746) and will help you “connect those dots” as we move forward. I have also uploaded a copy of Agnon’s Nobel Prize speech which I recommend reading. See this video of the 1966 prize ceremony.(http://www.nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=1570) [The file labelled “Resources” is some general material which you may find useful throughout the course.] As always, I welcome your feedback, questions, comments, etc. email@example.com or by Skype/Gmail chat: jeffreysaks
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New: Lesson 2
Two Pairs: For our first story in the “Nostalgia” section of our series (meeting on November 11), we’ll look at the short story “Two Pairs” (appears in A Book That Was Lost,(http://www.tobypress.com/books/abookthatwaslost.htm) pp. 75-84). Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)if you’d like a PDF of the Hebrew original. Those interested in doing additional reading should see the parallel story “The Kerchief” (pp. 61-73).
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New: Lesson 3
The Tale of the Scribe: Agnon’s well-known short story “The Tale of the Scribe” will be our next selection for the session on November 18. It appears in A Book That Was Lost,(http://www.tobypress.com/books/abookthatwaslost.htm) pp. 177-193. Email me (email@example.com)if you’d like a PDF of the Hebrew original. An annotated edition of the Hebrew story can be found in this collection from Schocken(http://www.schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=170&ArticleID=786&SearchParam=%D7%A2%D7%92%D7%A0%D7%95%D7%9F+%D7%90%D7%92%D7%93%D7%AA) (in Israel available wherever school-books are sold).
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New: Lesson 4
Pisces / Mazal Dagim: “Pisces” in A Book That Was Lost (pp. 255-300). For our final session in this round: The satirical story “Mazal Dagim” (translated as “Pisces”) from Agnon’s chronicle of Buczacz, Ir uMelo’ah. Appears in A Book That Was Lost, pp. 255-300. (Remember this fishy story?)(http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/15/nyregion/miracle-dream-prank-fish-talks-town-buzzes.html?scp=2&sq=new+squae+talking+fish&st=cse&pagewanted=print) Let me know if you’d like the Hebrew text. Attached as well: Some sources on fish and Judaism – take a look at these first, then consider how they echo in the story. Some background details to this story: 1. The historical 1864 case which was the germ for the story is documented in the Responsa of Buczacz’s rabbi, Avraham Teumim in the Hesed LeAvraham II O.C. 26 – uploaded here; 2. Tefillin straps must be black; 3. It is customary to fast for the day if ones tefillin fall to the floor; 4. It is forbidden to speak between affixing the arm tefillin and the head tefillin; 5. Jews like to eat; 6. Jews like to eat fish.
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New: Lesson 5
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Series II Introduction: The next 4-week series, exploring the “Nightmare” side of our discussion on Agnon’s writing, resumes on Sunday, December 30 at 7:30pm Jerusalem-time. Those wishing to read ahead for the next series are encouraged to read the stories from Agnon’s Sefer HaMa’asim cycle, which appear in his Hebrew volume Samukh veNireh(http://schocken.co.il/?CategoryID=162&ArticleID=194&Page=). In English they’re the stories marked with an asterisk * and yellow highlight in accompanying index of the translations(https://webyeshiva.org/class/?material=3845) appearing in A Book That Was Lost. We strongly recommend that you purchase the book.(http://www.amazon.com/Book-That-Was-Lost-Classics/dp/1592642543) During the first session we’ll look at the very short story The Candles / HaNerot (attached in my translation). You needn’t read it in advance, but do download it before the session. The archives (video or audio-only) of the first 4 sessions in which we explored the “Nostalgia” theme can be accessed at www.WebYeshiva.org/Agnon
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New: Lesson 6
A Whole Loaf: For the next session please read “A Whole Loaf” (Pat Shleimah) in A Book That Was Lost,(http://www.amazon.com/Book-That-Was-Lost-Classics/dp/1592642543/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356872107&sr=8-1&keywords=agnon+a+book+that+was+lost) pp. 373-387 – linked here(https://webyeshiva.org/class/?material=3921) (email me(firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like the Hebrew version). Click here for my short essay on Agnon and J.R.R. Tolkien.(http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/between-middle-earth-and-buczacz/) Before the 3rd session (January 13) there will be a complementary tour of the House starting at 6:30pm (for those attending live, sorry no online tour this time). Click here: WebYeshiva.org/AgnonContest for info on the Agnon writing contest for high school students(https://webyeshiva.org/agnoncontest) – please pass along to students and educators who should know about it.
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New: Lesson 7
To Father’s House / To the Doctor- For our January 13th session we will attempt two related short stories from the nightmarish Sefer HaMa’asim cycle – “To Father’s House” (pp. 433-36 in A Book That Was Lost)(http://www.amazon.com/Book-That-Was-Lost-Classics/dp/1592642543/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357414711&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=agnon+book+that+wa+slost) and “To the Doctor” (pp. 369-71). Email me if you’d like access to the Hebrew originals. For those attending live at Beit Agnon, there will be a complimentary tour of the house starting at 6:30pm. Please email me if you plan on joining.
Between Nostalgia and Nightmare: Agnon’s Stories of the Old World… and the New: Lesson 8
Twofold / Another Tallit- For our final session we’ll conclude our study of Agnon’s nightmarish Sefer HaMa’asim by reading two stories – “Twofold”(https://webyeshiva.org/class/?material=3930) (Pi Shnayim) and “Another Tallit(https://webyeshiva.org/class/?material=3931)” (Tallit Aheret) – neither of which is in A Book That Was Lost, but provided in accompanying links. It should be apparent how the two stories are linked by a common theme and central symbol. (Let me know(email@example.com) if you want the Hebrew originals.) “Twofold” is my own translation, and I welcome corrections and suggestions for improvement. Click here for my recent Jewish Ideas Daily essay(http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/5721/features/buczacz-by-way-of-newark-on-literary-lives-at-the-end/) comparing Philip Roth’s retirement with Agnon’s late career (based in part on things we discussed in our sessions together a number of weeks ago). As this will be our final session together I welcome your feedback, as well as suggestions for future series yet to be planned.
Rabbi Jeffrey Saks is the founding director of ATID – The Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions in Jewish Education, in Jerusalem, and its WebYeshiva.org program. He is the Editor of the journal Tradition, Series Editor of The S.Y. Agnon Library at The Toby Press, and Director of Research at the Agnon House in Jerusalem. A three-time graduate of Yeshiva University (BA, MA, Semicha), Rabbi Saks has published widely on Jewish thought, education, and literature (see webyeshiva.org/rabbisaks).