Journeys to the new homeland: Language and identity in the poetry of Alexander Penn and Nathan Alterman

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Abstract

Translingual literature, describing the work of writers and poets writing in a language that is not their mother tongue, offers a fascinating meeting point between language, immigration, identity and ideology. This article focuses on the work of Alexander Penn and Nathan Alterman, two writers who, as part of a wave driven mainly by Zionist motivations, emigrated from Eastern Europe in the 1920s and 1930s to what was then a Jewish society in Palestine. Their endeavour involved a revolutionary linguistic dimension as well: the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language. The analysis of their poems deals with issues of homeland and language, relying on Salman Akhtar's model concerning the psychological journeys of immigrants according to four dimensions: affect, space, time and social affiliation. The discussion traces the course of the poets' alternative paths, with Alterman's seemingly reflective consolidation into a reborn identity, and Penn's suggesting a “split self‐representation” expressing conflicting, contradictory and ambivalent attitudes.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)273-287
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2007

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