Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

Content Description

1 online resource ( viii, 183 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Glyne Griffith

Committee Members

Michael Leong, Bret Benjamin


Israeli poetry, Arabic poetry, Arab-Israeli conflict

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature


AbstractIn the essay “Cultural Criticism and Society” in Prisms, Theodor Adorno asserts that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric” (34). In this study, I examine what it means to write poetry after the Catastrophe and the difficult relationship between historical genocides and their literary representations. My project “Contrapuntal Readings of the Exilic Consciousness: Reading Yehuda Amichai and Mahmoud Darwish Together” explores the scope and character of poetry post-1940s to late 20th century in relation to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, at the margins of Arabic and Hebraic literary traditions. Both Shoah and Nakba mark a specific turning point in Israeli and Palestinian literary histories indicating a parallel development of national and exilic literatures within the context of migration, displacement, and nationalism, whose effect in the language of representation and poetry is inevitable. Within this framework, this dissertation explores how the literary roles of Israeli and Palestinian national poets, Yehuda Amichai and Mahmoud Darwish as poets associated with nationhood and post-Catastrophe became entangled and limited within the politics of nationalism. As survivors of these unmediated historical and political processes, both Amichai and Darwish as “national” poets had to work simultaneously within their state boundaries, representing their respective nations, while also reshaping these boundaries. Amichai’s position as the dor ha-mdina (statehood generation poet), and Darwish’s position as the al-adab al-multazim (the poet of resistance) complicate their relationship with their respective nationalisms and their literary commitments within the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. Nonetheless, their poems reveal how the boundaries of their relative nationalistic identities are consistently interrupted by the representation of their exilic consciousness that marks differences, heterogenous histories, and tense cultural and literary inter-relationships. Therefore, as opposed to reading within the national horizon, the goal of this study is twofold: i) to challenge the nationalistic readings of these state poets through a Saidian contrapuntal reading: a mode of reading and resistance that confronts the inner movements, and contradictions to reveal the slippery characteristics of nationalism as a concept and practice present in Amichai and Darwish’s poems; and ii) to trace the contrapuntal development of exile through an Arendtian reading of the conscious pariah in revitalizing exile as a literary motif for new imaginings of self-determination and as a source for newer commitments and other representations than of nationalisms. Within this framework of Arendt and Said’s advocacy for the exilic consciousness, this dissertation demonstrates how these theoretical concepts materialize in Amichai and Darwish’s poetic worlds, where their histories, languages, and narratives dance contrapuntally, maintaining a perpetual state of exile, thus upholding heterogeneity and humanistic resistance. They are, in Adorno’s term “barbarians”—poets who articulate new poetics that challenge reification and conventions in their attempt to represent the unrepresentable fate of exiles post-Catastrophes.