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 culture, Hebrew, Jewish, and Middle Eastern literatures. 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 teaching includes courses on Hebrew, Jewish, and Middle Eastern literatures, and Israeli society. She has lived and worked in the Middle East — Cairo, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv — for several years.

    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 writer Sami Michael, a champion of human rights and the underdog. His increasing popularity and critical acclaim reflect changes in Israeli society, especially attitudes towards immigrants and others from the margins. She has completed a book manuscript We Remember Babylon, about the ways in which Israeli immigrant writers remember home.

    Prof. Berg has also written on the Israeli mystery, women writers, food in literature, place, memory, and the choice of language. Works in progress include a study of the father-daughter relationship in Israeli literature, an anthology of exile, and a project on women's creativity.

    She currently serves as president of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew (NAPH).

    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.