David C. Jacobson Professor of Judaic Studies

David C. Jacobson is Professor of Judaic Studies. He has previously served on the faculties of University of Michigan, Ben-Gurion University, University of Pennsylvania, and Wesleyan University. He is author of Modern Midrash: The Retelling of Traditional Jewish Narratives by Twentieth-Century Hebrew Writers (State University of New York Press, 1987); Does David Still Play Before You?: Israeli Poetry and the Bible (Wayne State University Press, 1997); Creator, Are You Listening?: Israeli Poets on God and Prayer (Indiana University Press, 2007). He is co-editor (with Kamal Abdel-Malek) of Israeli and Palestinian Identities in History and Literature (St. Martin's Press, 1999); and Beyond Political Messianism: The Poetry of Second-Generation Religious Zionist Settlers (Academic Studies Press, 2011). He is also co-editor (with William Cutter) of History and Literature: New Readings of Jewish Texts in Honor of Arnold J. Band (Brown Judaic Studies, 2002). He currently serves as a co-editor of the monograph series Brown Judaic Studies.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

research overview

The focus of my research has been on the relationship of modern Hebrew literature to the Jewish tradition. My more recent research has focused on the relationship of contemporary Israeli poetry to the Jewish tradition. I have also written on the portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict in contemporary Israeli fiction and on responses to the Arab-Israeli conflict in early Passover haggadot of the kibbutz movement.

research statement

The focus of my research has been on European and Israeli Hebrew writers who transformed biblical narratives, rabbinic legends, and hasidic tales into modern works of literature that convey the relationship of the author to the Jewish tradition and to issues of contemporary significance. My first book, Modern Midrash: The Retelling of Traditional Jewish Narratives by Twentieth-Century Hebrew Writers (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), focused on adaptations of Hasidic tales by the European Hebrew writers Micha Yosef Berdyczewski and Y. L. Peretz, adaptations of rabbinic legends by the European Hebrew poet Chaim Nachman Bialik, adaptations of biblical narratives by the European Hebrew writer David Frischmann, and the role of biblical archetypes in the poetry of the European Hebrew writers Shaul Tchernichowsky and Yocheved Bat-Miriam and the works of the Israeli writers Amir Gilboa, Abba Kovner, Dan Pagis, Nissim Aloni, Moshe Shamir, and Amos Oz.

In my second book, Does David Still Play Before You?: Israeli Poetry and the Bible (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997), I focused on the role of Hebrew Bible in contemporary Israeli poetry and culture as reflected in poems by several Israeli writers: Amir Gilboa, T. Carmi, Nathan Yonathan, Matti Megged, Yehuda Amichai, Anadad Eldan, Nathan Zach, Dan Pagis, Haim Gouri, Aryeh Sivan, Moshe Dor, Yehudit Kafri, Dalia Ravikovitch, Asher Reich, Meir Wieseltier, Aliza Shenhar, Edna Aphek, Rachel Chalfi, Yitzhak Laor, and Maya Bejerano.

My third book, Creator, Are You Listening?: Israeli Poets on God and Prayer (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006) focused on the relationship of six contemporary Israeli poets with a variety of Jewish cultural backgrounds to the experience of the absence and presence of God and to the nature of prayer. These poets include: Zelda MIshkovsky, Yehuda Amichai, Asher Reich, Rivka Miriam, Admiel Kosman, and Hava Pinhas-Cohen.

My fourth book, Beyond Political Messianism: The Poetry of Second-Generation Religious Zionist Settlers (Brighton, Mass.: Academic Studies Press, 2011) is about the emergence of poetry among religious Zionists associated with the Israeli settler movement in the West Bank.

I have also written on the portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflict in contemporary Israeli fiction, the responses in kibbutz Passover haggadot to the conflict over Israel/Palestine by Jews and Arabs during the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, and the retelling of the biblical Exodus narrative in a novel by Israeli writer Shulamith Hareven.

funded research

Research Funding:

1975-76 National Foundation for Jewish Culture Fellowship

1979-80 Ben-Gurion University Research Grant

1985 Penn-Israel Travel Grant

1996-97 Salomon Faculty Research Award; Wayland Collegium Study Group Grant

1997 Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University Grant Fund Grant

2000 Cross Currents Research Colloquium Fellowship

2002-03 Watson Institute for International Studies Grant