Centers of Hebrew literature in eastern europe at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th

Zohar Shavit

Centers of Hebrew literature in eastern europe at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th

Historiographies of Hebrew literature maintain that centers of Hebrew literature began to flourish in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland, towards the end of the 19thcentury. They were based on defined groups of writers, readers and several entrepreneurs in the book industry, who created, for the first time in the history of Modern Hebrew literature, a solid literary center.

In this paper I challenge this common view of the Hebrew literary centers in Eastern Europe by describing and analyzing the growth in the reading public which generated euphoric emotions among contemporary men of letters. I contend that the nature of the reading public and its structure were misinterpreted. The Hebrew men of letters failed to notice that the increase in readership resulted from the reading of popular literature and failed to grasp that Hebrew literature had begun to fulfill for its readers functions of popular reading that were previously fulfilled by Yiddish literature.

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