The politics of intertextuality in Anton Shammas's "Arabesques"

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How can an Israeli Arab writer participate in a Jewish literary tradition that perceives the writer as a biblical prophet, a “watchman unto the house of Israel”? This paper explores the ways in which Israeli-Arab writer Anton Shammas employs a poetics of intertextuality to carve out a space for himself in a language not fully his own. My reading of Shammas's 1986 novel Arabesques focuses on a paragraph in which Shammas alludes to, indeed rewrites, a passage from Bialik's “Habrekhah” (“The Pool”), widely considered one of the greatest ars poetic texts in Hebrew literature. In re-reading and rewriting Bialik from the margins of Israeli culture, Shammas makes a surprising use of this canonical poem by positioning it in a new context of identity politics. Through this intertextual practice, Shammas challenges the national and ethnic boundaries of Israeli culture.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-336
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2004


  • Shammas
  • Anton. ʻArabeskot English
  • Bialik
  • Hayyim Nahman
  • 1873-1934. ha-Brekhah
  • Arabic literature -- History and criticism


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