Celebrating a Legend of Hebrew Literature

YU’s Center for Israel Studies Convenes Conference to Mark 50th Anniversary of S.Y. Agnon’s Nobel Prize

The Yeshiva University Center for Israel Studies will host a conference on the works and influence of Nobel Prize-winning Israeli author S.Y. Agnon in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his award. Titled “Agnon’s Stories of the Land of Israel: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of S.Y. Agnon’s Nobel Prize,” the conference will take place on Monday, October 31, 2016 on the University’s Wilf Campus in Furst Hall, Room 535, 500 West 185th Street, New York, NY 10033.

Renowned Israeli author S.Y. Agnon accepts the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966
Renowned Israeli author S.Y. Agnon accepts the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1966.

The lectures will situate Agnon’s work in the context of his birthplace in Buchach, his adopted home in Jerusalem during the British mandate and early Israel, and the literary culture of his time.

Co-sponsored by Agnon House, Jerusalem and the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, the conference will feature renowned scholars.

Convened by Rabbi Shalom Carmy, assistant professor of Bible and Jewish philosophy, and Rabbi Jeffrey Saks ’91YC ’93BR ’95R, Agnon scholar and director of the Academy for Torah Initiatives and Directions, other speakers at the event include: Dr. Zafrira Livodsky-Cohen, professor of Hebrew and director of Hebrew language and literature; Dr. Steven Fine, the Dean Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History and director of the Center for Israel Studies at YU; Dr. Avraham Holtz, Simon H. Fabian Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS); Alan Mintz, Chana Kekst Professor of Hebrew Literature at JTS; and Dr. Wendy Zierler, Sigmund Falk Professor of Modern Jewish Literature and Feminist Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

“Agnon was creative in an extraordinary variety of literary forms,” said Carmy. “In addition to his fiction, he produced anthologies of Torah and chronicles of East European life, all this as the great impresario of the Hebrew language in all its classical layers that made him virtually untranslatable. In recent years, a flurry of attractive and accessible English translations, spearheaded by the work of Jeffrey Saks, has made him available to new audiences.”

He added, “With the passage of time and increase in critical sophistication, one grows more appreciative of Agnon’s religious preoccupations. Although he abstained from philosophical theorizing, he had a profound understanding of the breakdown of traditional religious life and its horrific consequences. If YU hopes to address the present spiritual and religious crisis at its deepest level, his is one of the voices we must engage with.”

“Agnon’s writings reach to the heart of YU—his rich Hebrew, his themes, his ties  to both Eastern Europe and  Eretz Yisrael and his deep and creative engagement with Jewish life and literature across the ages,” said Fine. “Agnon rightly received an honorary doctorate from YU in 1967.  We are thrilled once again to celebrate his life and work, this 50 years since his Nobel moment.”

The conference is organized by the Center for Israel Studies and its Joseph and Faye Glatt Program on Israel and the Rule of Law. For more information, visit http://yu.edu/cis/activities/conferences/.