A New Sound in Hebrew Poetry

A New Sound in Hebrew Poetry

Poetics, Politics, Accent
Miryam Segal
Distribution: World
Publication date: 12/15/2009
ISBN: 978-0-253-00358-4
Bookmark and Share

Available through various retailers


With scrupulous attention to landmark poetic texts and to educational and critical discourse in early 20th-century Palestine, Miryam Segal traces the emergence of a new accent to replace the Ashkenazic or European Hebrew accent in which almost all modern Hebrew poetry had been composed until the 1920s. Segal takes into account the broad historical, ideological, and political context of this shift, including the construction of a national language, culture, and literary canon; the crucial role of schools; the influence of Zionism; and the leading role played by women poets in introducing the new accent. This meticulous and sophisticated yet readable study provides surprising new insights into the emergence of modern Hebrew poetry and the revival of the Hebrew language in the Land of Israel.

Author Bio

Miryam Segal is Assistant Professor in the Department of Classical, Middle Eastern, and Asian Languages and Cultures at Queens College, The City University of New York.


"One thing Israelis have mostly managed to agree on, lately, is the proper way to pronounce Hebrew. The language revivalists who transformed Hebrew into a modern spoken language called their new accent Sephardic (though it was only partly based on the speech of Sephardic Jews)—but at first, in the late 19th and early 20th century, most poets wouldn’t write stanzas to fit the new pronunciation. Miryam Segal’s 'A New Sound in Hebrew Poetry: Poetics, Politics, Accent' describes how this gradually changed, and how the new accent turn into the standard for everyone except for some Yiddishists, Hasids, and of course all those few well-intentioned Hebrew school alumni who speak Hebrew with New Jersey or Long Island accents." —Josh Lambert, The Tablet

"An extremely impressive piece of literary and historical scholarship . . . her close readings are apt and instructive; the readings of the Shlonsky poems range from deft to dazzling." —Robert Alter, University of California, Berkeley

"A thorough, shrewd, and critical analysis." —Hamutal Tsamir, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

"Her studies of the poetry are delightful . . . this will become the new standard on the history of this development." —Harry Fox, University of Toronto

A New Sound in Hebrew Poetry] is an exploration in depth of a linguistic phenomenon in which the cultural history of Zionism, the history of modern Hebrew literature, and the history of modern Hebrew prosody are conflated. Informed by a sophisticated understanding of the significance of prosodic developments, as well as by an innate and well trained sensitivity to the music of poetry, Miryam Segal's book will not be bypassed by serious historians of modern Hebrew literature and culture." —Dan Miron, Columbia University

"Segal’s careful, concise, and well-written study of the new accent’s instauration in Palestinian Hebrew speech and poetry constitutes a significant contribution to the study of Zionism, as well as Hebrew linguistic and literary studies." —Philip Hollander,

"In her recent study, A New Sound in Hebrew Poetry, the scholar Miryam Segal traces the impact of the decision to institutionalize Sephardi pronunciation in early-20th-century Palestine." —Jewish Ideas Daily

"... the book is informative and interesting ..." —Shofar , Vol. 29, No. 3 Spring 2011

"Segal's insightful and carefully crafted work opens the door to a fresh way of exploring the evolvement of contemporary Hebrew." —

"Not only does Miryam Segal’s A New Sound in Hebrew Poetry dare offer an answer to the perennial question posed by Hölderlin: What are poets for? It also reveals, in the language of Hebrew poetry, the subtle layers of ars poetica operative within the remarkable renaissance of Jewish peoplehood. . . . On many levels, Segal’s book is a welcome contribution to studies both of Hebrew ars poetica and of Zionism." —Nashim

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration

1. "Make Your Classroom a Nation-State": Pedagogy and the Rise of the New Accent
2. Representing a Nation in Sound: Organic, Hybrid, and Synthetic Hebrews
3. "Listening to Her Is Torture": The Menace of a Male Voice in a Woman's Body
4. The Runaway Train and the Yiddish Kid: Shlonsky's Double Inscription
Epilogue: The Conundrum of the National Poet

Appendix 1. Leonard Lopate's Interview with Gene Simmons, New York and Company, WNYC Radio, December 12, 2001
Appendix 2. "Train" ["Rakevet"]. Published in the literary supplement to Davar 1, no. 15, January 8, 1926.