professor berg

Nancy E. Berg

Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature
PhD, University of Pennsylvania
research interests:
  • Genre Literature
  • Immigration Literature
  • Modern Hebrew & Arabic Literatures
  • Women's Literature
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1121
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Professor Berg teaches courses in Israeli society, Middle Eastern literatures, and Jewish culture. While much of her scholarship focuses on the literature of Iraqi Jews, she has also researched Israeli women's writing, memory writing, and food.

    Her first book, Exile from Exile, explores the writings of Israeli Jews from Iraq, heirs to the longest continuous Jewish community: Babylonian Jewry. In More and More Equal, her next book, she analyzes the literary career of Israeli writer Sami Michael. What We Talk About When We Talk About Hebrew (And What It Means to Americans), coedited with Naomi B. Sokoloff, won the 2019 National Jewish Book Award for Anthologies and Collections. Their second project, Since 1948: Israeli Literature in the Making is scheduled to be published this October.

    Prof. Berg has been a fellow at CASA (Center for Arabic Study Abroad), the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and the Herbert Katz Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She previously served as president of the NAPH (National Association of Professors of Hebrew).

    Since 1948: Israeli Literature in the Making

    Since 1948: Israeli Literature in the Making

    Toward the end of the twentieth century, an unprecedented surge of writing altered the Israeli literary scene in profound ways. As fresh creative voices and multiple languages vied for recognition, diversity replaced consensus. Genres once accorded lower status—such as the graphic novel and science fiction—gained readership and positive critical notice. These trends ushered in not only the discovery and recovery of literary works but also a major rethinking of literary history. In Since 1948, scholars consider how recent voices have succeeded older ones and reverberated in concert with them; how linguistic and geographical boundaries have blurred; how genres have shifted; and how canon and competition have shaped Israeli culture. Charting surprising trajectories of a vibrant, challenging, and dynamic literature, the contributors analyze texts composed in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Arabic; by Jews and non-Jews; and by Israelis abroad as well as writers in Israel. What emerges is a portrait of Israeli literature as neither minor nor regional, but rather as transnational, multilingual, and worthy of international attention.

    More and More Equal

    More and More Equal

    More and More Equal examines the works of Sami Michael, the most significant Israeli writer who has made the transition from Arabic to Hebrew. Born in Baghdad, Michael fled in 1948 to Iran, and later to Israel, to escape imprisonment or execution due to his involvement with the Iraqi Communist Party. Early in his career Michael was deemed merely an "ethnic" writer, but his incredible popular success and indelible influence on his Israeli audience have forced critics to consider his writings anew. Nancy E. Berg sheds light on Michael's belated canonization and traces his development as a storyteller. Berg offers fresh readings of each of Michael's major novels.

    Exile from Exile

    Exile from Exile

    The standard histories of Israeli literature limit the canon, virtually ignoring those who came to Israel from Jewish communities in the Middle East. By focusing on the work of Iraqi-born authors, this book offers a fundamental rethinking of the canon and of Israeli literary history. 

    The story of these writers challenges common conceptions of exile and Zionist redemption. At the heart of this book lies the paradox that the dream of ingathering the exiles has made exiles of the ingathered. Upon arriving in Israel, these writers had to decide whether to continue writing in their native language, Arabic, or begin in a new language, Hebrew. The author reveals how Israeli works written in Arabic depict different memories of Iraq from those written in Hebrew.