An Editor in Israel: The Periodicals of Ahad Ha'am in the Development of Modern Hebrew Literature

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This dissertation argues for a reevaluation of the significance of Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg) in the development of modern Hebrew literature on the basis of his work as an editor of periodicals. Critics commonly portray Ahad Ha’am as rigid and didactic, enforcing his own literary norms while excluding aesthetic and humanistic literature in favor of literature with explicit Jewish themes. Reading the periodicals edited by Ahad Ha’am shows that this reputation is exaggerated; his work is in fact characterized by significant heterogeneity and flexibility.This dissertation introduces the critical perspective and methodology of periodical studies to Hebrew literature. The first chapter shows how Ahad Ha’am as an editor brings diverse ideologies and Hebrew styles together in an organic whole, the “Odessa nusach,” in the literary collection Kaveret (1890). The second chapter argues that Yehoshua Ḥana Ravnitsky, editor of Pardes (1892-1896), lacks the editorial skill and vision of Ahad Ha’am, and as a result Pardes is divisive and lacks the unity of Ahad Ha’am’s periodicals. The final two chapters are devoted to Ha-Shiloah, the most prestigious outlet for Hebrew literature of its era, founded and edited by Ahad Ha’am from 1896 to 1903. Chapter Three traces the history of the critical reception of Ahad Ha’am’s controversy with Micha Yosef Berdichevsky over the boundaries of Hebrew literature, showing the development of a polarized standard account of the dispute that discredits Ahad Ha’am. Reading the original essays of the dispute in context shows that Ahad Ha’am’s resistance to belles lettres and humanistic literature is far from absolute, and in a sense Ahad Ha’am authors the entire controversy by collaborating with and publishing Berdichevsky and his supporters. Finally, the dissertation uses the belletristic literature published by Ahad Ha’am in Ha-Shiloah to show that his selections as an editor were not as narrow as critics claim or even as Ahad Ha’am himself prescribes in his essays. As a periodical editor, Ahad Ha’am fostered diversity and dialogue, and this should be accounted for in evaluating his influence on the development of Hebrew literature.