Storytelling and the Consequences of Recognizing the Humanity of the Other in Literature from Israel/Palestine

By Ann Murphy.

Published by The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies

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Reading for Peace is a critical approach to literature and film that explores the way texts and films produced in times of war and conflict may suggest constructive, peace-building ways to respond to the challenge of violence. Such texts thematize peace-building strategies and/or embody them in narrative/poetic technique to fashion “a rhetoric of peace.” These peace-building strategies include: an insistence on the importance of empathy and on seeing and humanizing the Other; a focus on storytelling and memory as a means of healing trauma; a rejection of revenge and the cycle of vengeance; and an attempt to negotiate a balance between remembering history and achieving forgiveness. This paper explores peace building in literature from Israel and Palestine, specifically in two texts, one by David Grossman and one by Elias Khoury. The paper identifies correspondences in motif, imagery and theme suggesting the power of empathy and forgiveness, the need to reject revenge, and the effort to see the Other as human. In addition, and more ambiguously, the texts share a preoccupation with history and storytelling, memory and trauma, victimhood and grievance, and both contain enactments of confrontation with the Other as an uncanny double. In effect, the literature of these two cultures constitutes a kind of Moebius strip of themes related to peace constituting a potential dialogue.

Keywords: Literature, Film, Peace, War, Empathy, History, Forgiveness, Trauma, Revenge

The International Journal of Civic, Political, and Community Studies, Volume 10, Issue 2, 2012, pp.25-31. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 391.855KB).

Dr. Ann Murphy

Professor of English, Department of English, Assumption College, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

Ann Murphy is Professor of English at Assumption College. Her academic interests include the 19th century British novel, feminist history, Virginia Woolf, literature by American women of color, post-colonial women writers, and peace studies and the literature of war and peace. She is the co-editor, with Deirdre Raftery, of a collection of letters from Emily Davies, 19th century British feminist. She is working on a book exploring images of peacemaking and nonviolence in literature from times of war.