Shapira, Ḥayyim Nachman

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SHAPIRA, ḤAYYIM NACHMAN (1895–1943), critic of Hebrew literature. Born in Minsk, Russia, he was a lecturer in Semitic languages at the University of Kovno from 1925 to 1940 and was also an active Zionist. During the Nazi occupation, he furthered cultural activity in the Kovno ghetto, and was killed along with his wife, his mother, and his only child. A student of the German school of aesthetics of the 1920s, he sought to introduce this discipline into the analytical study of Hebrew literature. Shapira published stories and articles, especially in Gilyonot, Haolam, and Moznayim. During the last years of his life, he worked on his magnum opus, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah ("A History of Modern Hebrew Literature"), which was to consist of 12 volumes. Only one volume was published dealing with the Haskalah in central Germany (1784–1829). In it, he stresses the ideological direction of the beginnings of modern Hebrew literature, viewing it as a product of the secular "this-worldly" attitude of the enlightened. At the same time, he places Hebrew literature within the context of the aesthetic theory of the Enlightenment, offering some fine insights into its artistic aspects. A reprint of this volume appeared in 1967, with the addition of a biographical essay by Benzion Benshalom. The manuscript of the second volume, which dealt with Hebrew literature in Galicia and Lithuania, was destroyed in the ghetto.


Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 968–9.

[Getzel Kressel]