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ENGLISH 4IP3 Narratives of Israel/Palestine

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Iris Bruce

Email: ibruce@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 502

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24697


Office Hours: Tuesday 5:30-6:20; Thursday 4:30-5:20 or by appointment

Course Objectives:

By the end of this course students will be familiar with relevant topoi related to the Israel/Palestine conflicts and use these commonplaces to help analyze past and present international events or crises and Western media representations related to Israel/Palestine. They will have an understanding of the complexity of the present situation through our discussions of many different and contradictory responses to the conflict in historical documents, literature, and film.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Recommended Texts:

Shapira, Anita. Israel: A History (2012)

Bregman, Ahron. A History of Israel (2002)


Required Texts:

These are available at Titles, the university bookstore.

Brenner, Yosef Haim. 1920. Breakdown and Bereavement (2004)

Grossman, David. 2000. Someone to Run With (2004)

Habiby, Emile. 1974. The Secret Life of Saeed (2002)Kashua, Sayed. 2010. Second Person Singular (2012)

Kashua, Sayed. 2010. Second Person Singular (2012)

Khalifeh, Sahar. 1976. Wild Thorns (2003)

Oz, Amos. 1995. Panther in the Basement (1997)

Courseware: historical/literary background material


Films may include: excerpts from Land of Promise (1935), Avodah (1935), & Hatikvah (1936); Someone to Run With (Oded Davidoff, 2006); A Borrowed Identity (Eran Riklis, 2014); The Bubble (Eytan Fox, 2006); Arab Labor (Daniel Paran/Sayed Kashua, 2008); The Time that Remains (Elia Suleiman, 2009); Paradise Now (Hany Abu-Assad, 2005); Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008); The Syrian Bride (Eran Riklis, 2004); Lemon Tree (Eran Riklis, 2008); Yossi & Jagger (Eytan Fox, 2011).


Method of Assessment:

Assignments and Evaluations: (Due Dates)


Research Essay (2500-3000 words) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30%

Seminar Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30%

Response Paper . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20%

Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Written Work and Late Submissions:

Late work will be penalized: there will be a reduction of 3% per day on essays handed in late without permission, and they will receive no extensive commentary.

Late Assignment Policy:

All essays are due either in class or electronically by the end of the day on the assigned date.


Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


The discussion of certain texts may flow over to the following class.

January 4: Introduction: film excerpts: scene from “Arab Labour,” Land of Promise & Avodah; “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”;   Max Nordau, “Jewry of Muscle”

January 11: Mendele, “Shem and Japheth on the Train”; F. Kafka, “Jackals and Arabs”; Y. H. Brenner, “The Way Out” (courseware 91-121). Background: “The Balfour Declaration”; T. Herzl, “The Jewish State”; M. Nordau, “Speech to the First Zionist Congress”; Ahad Ha-Am, “The Jewish State and the Jewish Problem” (courseware 9-24).

January 18: film excerpt from Hatikvah, Brenner, Breakdown and Bereavement (1920)

January 25: Brenner; Palestinian poetry; Amos Oz, Panther in the Basement; Background: “Declaration of Israel’s Independence 1948,” “The Palestinian People’s Appeal on the 50th Anniversary of the Nakba” (courseware 25-30); essays by Oz, “how to cure a fanatic”; “Has Israel Altered its Visions?” & “From Jerusalem to Cairo” (courseware 57-87)

February 1: Samira ‘Azzam, “Bread of Sacrifice”; S. Yizhar, “The Prisoner” (courseware 123-132, 139-47). Emile Habiby, The Secret Life of Saeed

February 8: Habiby & Khalifeh, Wild Thorns

February 15: film: Paradise Now

February 19-25: Mid-Term Recess; no class

March 1: Sayed Kashua, Second Person Singular 

March 8: film: A Borrowed Identity

March 15: David Grossman, Someone to Run With

March 22: film: Someone to Run With

March 29: ESSAY IS DUE; Savyon Liebrecht: “A Room on the Roof” and “The Road to Cedar City” (courseware 155-85)

April 5: last day of classes: film: The Time that Remains (Elia Suleiman)


Other Course Information:

Course Description:

Beginning with pre-1948 Jewish and Arab narratives, the course examines representations in literature and film of longing for the land of Israel and at the same time challenges beliefs about belonging in the land. We will investigate for whom this land is the object of longing and why. How can Jews in the Diaspora feel they belong to the land while living outside of it, and how can Jews or Palestinians who live in the land still long for it as an idealized, imaginary land? What is the causal link between longing and belonging in terms of ownership or entitlement? Must the feeling of belonging necessarily create an excluded other? Questions of identity are closely linked with the theme of longing and belonging. Yet identity in contemporary Israel is increasingly complex: a multicultural society comprised of various Christian affiliations, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jews, Christian and Muslim Arabs in the State of Israel, Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the Druze, Bedouins, Ethiopian & Eritrean Jewish refugees, and many other immigrants and non-Jewish foreign workers, not to mention the deep religious divides in an officially secular Jewish State. This course does not attempt to solve or resolve the real-life issues imaginatively realized by these writers and filmmakers. Rather, it will complicate the issues by supplanting a single point of view with a multiplicity of views. Our focus will be on how these issues are presented, not on whether someone is right or wrong. Through the genres of fiction, poetry, memoir and film we will discuss emigration and immigration, the creation of a nation, the Israeli military experience, globalization and terrorism, religious fundamentalism & secularization, the role of women in Israeli and Palestinian societies, the thriving gay cultural life in Tel Aviv, and the ultimate absurdity of life in contemporary Israel.