The Phantom of Introjected Antisemitism: Hebrew, Yiddish, and the Return of the Repressed
The English Department The University of Haifa Haifa, Israel
The first part of the proposed paper would focus on a historical psycho-social phenomenon which I would describe as "introjected anti-Semitism" in relation to the rupture between the collective subjectivity generated in the course of the Zionist revolution and the diasporic mode of Jewish existence. Zionism, albeit a miraculous process of national re-birth, involved not only a secularization of Judaism, but also a communal internalization of anti-Semitic stereotypes. The immediate casualties of the process were Yiddish language and culture, which were identified with the diasporic history of persecution, humiliation, and fear--everything which the emerging Israeli nation was determined to leave behind.
The second part of the paper deals with the belated recognition of the immensity of the loss, and turns to the poetry of Yechiel Perlmutter (1903-1922), which I read as the "return of the repressed". Perlmutter, who had renamed himself Avot Yeshurun in the aftermath of the holocaust, developed a radically transgressive Hebrew idiolect, broken up, fragmented, and mangled by Yiddish phrases and syntax. The poetry written in this idiolect is a labour of mourning for a lost world, and a desperately belated attempt to make amends by reversing the historical process of dispossession. Following the psycho-social framing of the discussion, and using some of the psychoanalytic conceptions developed by Nicolas Abraham and Maria Torok, I would suggest at the conclusion of the paper that what we read in Avot Yeshurun's poetry is a painful and sometimes brutal exposure of the introjected phantom which has haunted Israeli society and culture throughout its formative century.