Abstract

This article explores the representation of Hebrew speech in Hebrew literature during the first decades of the twentieth century by focusing attention on Yosef Hayim Brenner's novel, Me-hathala (From the Beginning). The novel, situated in a Jewish colony in Palestine, was written at a time when Hebrew was only emerging as a spoken vernacular and the text repeatedly engages the act of stammering. Drawing on current work in dysfluency studies, I demonstrate that such an attention to stammering was a tool employed by Hebrew authors to present an ambivalent relationship to the transforming language. Reading Brenner's novel, which mocks its protagonists’ ineloquent Hebrew, the article suggests that Brenner's literary poetics be considered as a poetics of stammering, which demonstrates an iterated enactment of transition and negotiates contradictory drives in the fantasy of a national and linguistic revival.

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