This talk examines the comparative representations of the Mizrahi immigrant and the Holocaust refugee through the motif of the child immigrant to Israel in the mid-20th century through the work of Leah Goldberg (1911-1970). A prolific modernist poet, author, playwright, literary translator, and comparative literary critic who chaired the Department of Comparative Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Goldberg’s focus upon dislocation and language in her work for both adults and children is informed by the forced migrations that she experienced both as a child during World War I and as an adult during World War II. In this talk, Feldman reevaluates Goldberg’s contributions to Hebrew modernism and children’s literature with special focus upon how her fiction collapses the border between the literary landscapes and geographical ones, defamiliarizing and democratizing the haunting landscapes of her childhood as well as new spaces of Israeli toponymy, in particular the liminal spaces that connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to migrant camps and children’s communities on the Kibbutzim. Feldman interprets Goldberg’s handling of these topics through the lens of psychogeographical mapping, or charting the “specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals” (Debord 1955) – arguing that Goldberg’s impulse to explore the effects of geographical space upon her child subjects signals a particularly modernist resistance to nationalist-Zionist narratives.
Rachel Feldman is a doctoral candidate in Comparative Literature at UC Santa Barbara, where she is finalizing her dissertation, “The Mother Tongues and Multilingual Specters of Modern Hebrew Children’s Literature,” which explores how a new constellation of authors – linguists, translators, poets, and artists – turned to multimodal children’s literature and children’s systems in order to reconcile major sociolinguistic ideological concerns, particularly in negotiating modern Hebrew as a their new “mother tongue” in light of its persistent role as a “heritage language.” The dissertation argues that these authors’ development of a discrete yet radically polyphonic modern Hebraist writing aimed at an intergenerational and multilingual audience employed children’s genres to discretely promote counter-hegemonic ideas about Hebrew heritage language learners. Feldman is a UC President’s Dissertation Year Fellow and Max Kade Fellow 2022-2023, a co-convener of the IHC Global Childhood Ecologies Research Focus Group and a graduate organizer of the upcoming 26th International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) Congress 2023, “Ecologies of Childhood,” to be hosted August 12–17 by UC Santa Barbara, in collaboration with Stanford University.