Professor Robert Alter

Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley

1.  Education and employment
      B.A. in English, summa cum laude, Columbia College, 1957;  M.A. (1958), and Ph.D. (1962), both in comparative literature, from Harvard University.  Special student in modern Hebrew literature.  Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1959-60.
      English Department, Columbia University, Instructor (1962-64), Assistant Professor (1964-66).  Associate Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of California at Berkeley, 1967-69; since 1969, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature.  Since 1989, Class of 1937 Professor of Comparative Literature.  Chairman of the Department of Comparative Literature, 1970-72, 1988-89.

2.  Memberships and advisory boards

Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Fellow of the American Philosophical Society
Council of Scholars of the Library of Congress.
Fellow of the American Academy of Jewish Research
American Comparative Literature Association.
Association of Literary Scholars and Critics (President, 1996–97)
Association for Jewish Studies.

3.  Fellowships, awards, and selected endowed lectureships

1957-58, Woodrow Wilson Fellow.
1957-62, Danforth Fellow.
1966-67, Guggenheim Fellow.
1972-73, Senior Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities.
1978-79, Guggenheim Fellow.
1982-83, Fellow, The Institute for Advanced Studies, The Hebrew University.
1992-93, Old Dominion Fellow, Princeton University
1965, English Institute Essay Prize.
1979, Finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism for A Lion for Love.
1982, National Jewish Book Award for Jewish Thought for The Art of Biblical Narrative.
1983, Ateret Tiferet Award for Literature, Jewish Theological Seminary.
1984, Distinguished Humanist Award, Melton Center, Ohio State University.
1985, Doctor of Humane Letters, Hebrew Union College, Los Angeles.
1986, Present Tense Award for Religious Thought for The Art of Biblical Poetry.
1986, The Art of Biblical Poetry selected by Choice as one of the seven outstanding scholarly books of 1985-1986.
1992, Maurice A. Stiller Prize, Baltimore Hebrew University
1995, Career Award for Scholarship, National Foundation for Jewish Culture
1997, Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award for Translation  (Genesis)
2000, Canon and Creativity, LA Times list of best books of 2000
2001, Canon and Creativity  selected by Choice as one of the best scholarly books of 2000-2001
2005, Koret Special Award for Translation for The Five Books of Moses 
2005, PEN-USA Translation Award for The Five Books of Moses
2006, Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Judaism
2008, Northern California Critics Book Awards for Literary translation for Psalms
2008,  Commonwealth Club California Book Awards, special literary distinction, for Psalms

October 1968, Segals Visiting Lecturer, Sir George Williams University, Montreal   (Anti-realism in the American Novel).
January 1971, Roland Memorial Visiting Lecturer, Stanford University (Kafka, Bialik, Agnon).
January 1972, Kaplan Visiting Lecturer, Ohio State University (Contemporary Israeli Literature).
October 1976, Buckstein Memorial Lecturer, Trent University, Ontario (Biblical      Narrative).
February 1982, Gale Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin (A Literary Approach to the Bible).
December 1983, Hillel Rogoff Lecturer, Yeshiva University (The Poetry of Job).
December 1984, Whitney Short-term Fellow in the Humanities, Princeton University (Biblical Poetry).
April 1985, Farkosh Family Lecturer, Carleton College (Biblical Poetry).
September 1986, Gerson Lecturer, University of Florida (Modern Hebrew Prose).
November 1986, Mary Farnum Brown Lecturer, Haverford College (Constructing Biblical Narrative).
November 1986, Princeton University, E. L. Faber Class of 1915 Memorial Lecturer (Privileging Character).
April 1987, Stroum Lecturer, University of Washington (The Invention of Hebrew Prose).
February 1988, Feinberg Lecturer, University of Cincinnati (Language as Theme in the Book of Judges)
March 1988, Bilgray Lecturer, University of Arizona (Putting Together Biblical Narrative).
October 1988, Cummings Lecturer in the Humanities, McGill University (Agnon's Psychological Realism).
April 1989, Visiting Humanist Series, Queens College (Biblical Imperatives and Literary Play).
March 1990, Efraymson Lecturer, Hebrew Union College (Kafka, Benjamin, Scholem).
October 1991, J.S. Woodsworth Visiting Scholar, Simon Fraser University (Narrative Specification and the Power of the Literal).
March, 1994, Schick Lecturer in English, Indiana State University (Style as World in Dickens)
May, 1994, Speaker's Lecturer, University of Oxford (Imagining History in the Bible)
May, 1995, Speaker's Lecturer, University of Oxford (The Bible in Hebrew and English)
November 1997, Burnshaw Lecturer, Ransom Humanities Center, University of Texas at  Austin (Joyce's Ulysses and the Common Reader)
March 1998, Faculty Research Lecturer, University of California at Berkeley (Joyce’s Ulysses and the Common Reader)
March 1999, Kritikos Professor, Humanities Center, University of Oregon (The David Story and the Beginnings of Political Fiction)
April 1999, Rosenzweig Lecturer, Yale University (Recasting the Canon: Modern Writing and the Authority of Scripture)
October 2002, Remarque Lecturer in European Studies, Remarque Institute, NYU (Flaubert and the Modern City)
May 2003, Weidenfeld Visiting Professor in European Comparative Literature, University of Oxford (The European City and the Language of the Novel)
October, 2004, Gruss Lecturer in Talmudic Law, NYU (The Power of the Vow in Biblical Narrative)
March 2004, Stanford University (The Privileged Moment in Babel and Flaubert)
March 2004, Cardin Lecture, Loyola Univ. of Baltimore (The Biblical Thread in American Prose)
May 2004, Paidaia Conference, Stockholm (Bialik Reads Pushkin Reads Isaiah)
March 2006, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (The Role of Language in Literary Studies)
March 2006, Tel Aviv University (Translating the Bible)
February 2007, Jewish Book Week, London (Translating the Psalms)
April 2008, Spencer Trask Lectures, Princeton (The American Novel and the Bible)

4.  Publications

a)  Books

1.  Rogue's Progress:  Studies in the Picaresque Novel,  Harvard University Press,   1964.

2.  Fielding and the Nature of the Novel, Harvard University Press, 1968.

3.  After the Tradition, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1969.

4.  Modern Hebrew Literature, Behrman House, 1975.

5.  Partial Magic: The Novel as a Self-Conscious Genre, University of California      Press, 1975.

6.  Defenses of the Imagination, Jewish Publication Society, 1978.

7.  A Lion for Love:  A Critical Biography of Stendhal, Basic Books, 1979.  (German         translation, 1983)

8.  The Art of Biblical Narrative, Basic Books, 1981.  (Hebrew translation, 1988; Italian translation, 1990; Dutch translation, 1997; French translation, 1999;     Chinese translation, 2005).

9.  Motives for Fiction, Harvard University Press, 1984.

10.  The Art of Biblical Poetry, Basic Books, 1985.

11.  (with Frank Kermode), The Literary Guide to the Bible, Harvard University Press, 1987.  (edited Old Testament section; wrote the following:  General Introduction [with Frank Kermode], Introduction to Old Testament, "Psalms," "The Characteristics of Ancient Hebrew Poetry"). (Portuguese translation, 1997; French translation, 2003).

12.  The Invention of Hebrew Prose:  Modern Fiction and the Language of Realism,    University of Washington Press, 1988.

13.  The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age, Simon & Schuster, 1989.  (Italian translation, 1990; Japanese translation, 1995; Hebrew translation, 2001).

14.  Necessary Angels:  Tradition and Modernity in Kafka, Benjamin, and Scholem, Harvard University Press, 1991.  (Portuguese translation, 1993; French translation, 2001; German translation, 2001).

15.  The World of Biblical Literature, Basic Books, 1992.

16.  Hebrew and Modernity, Indiana University Press, 1994.

17.  Genesis: Translation and Commentary, W. W. Norton, 1996.

18. The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel, W. W Norton, 1999.

19. Canon and Creativity: Modern Writing and the Authority of Scripture, Yale University Press, 2000.

20. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, W.W. Norton, 2004.

21:   Imagined Cities: Urban Experience and the Language of the Novel, Yale University  Press, 2005.

22.  The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary, W.W. Norton, 2007

      (b)  Articles

23.  "Al Im K'nisat Ha-Yom l'Shai Agnon," Hadoar, June 19, 1959.

24.  "The Genius of S. Y. Agnon," Commentary, August, 1961.

25.  "S. Yizhar's The Days of Ziklag," Judaism, Winter, 1961.

26.  "Israeli Writers and their Problems," Commentary, July, 1962.

27.  Introduction to Israeli Stories, ed. J. Blocker, Schocken, 1962.

28.  "Maurice Samuel and Jewish Letters," Commentary, March, 1964.

29.  "The Kidnapping of Bialik and Tchernichovsky," Midstream, June, 1964.

30.  "The Stature of Saul Bellow," Midstream, December, 1964.

31.  "Sentimentalizing the Jews," Commentary, September, 1965.

32.  Selections on Tchernichovsky and Preil (introductions, translations and explications) in The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself, ed. Burnshaw, Carmi, and Spicehandler:  Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1965.

33.  "Poetry in Israel," Commentary, December, 1965.

34.  "On the Critical Dismissal of Fielding," Salmagundi, Winter, 1966.

35.  "Confronting the Holocaust:  Three Israeli Novels," Commentary, March, 1966.

36.  "The Apocalyptic Temper," Commentary, June, 1966.

37.  "The Israeli Novel," Daedalus, Fall, 1966.

38.  "Malamud as Jewish Writer," Commentary, September, 1966.

39.  "S. Y. Agnon," Saturday Review, December 10, 1966.

40.  "Sabbatai Zevi and Jewish Imagination," Commentary, June, 1967.

41.  "Fielding and the Uses of Style," Novel, Fall, 1967.

42. "Jewish Dreams and Nightmares," Commentary, April, 1968.

43.  "Tristram Shandy and the Game of Love," The American Scholar, Spring, 1968.

44.  "Hebrew Between Two Worlds," Commentary, April, 1968.

45.  "The Real and Imaginary Worlds of Norman Mailer," Midstream, January, 1969.

46.  "The Demons of History in Dickens' Tale," Novel, Winter, 1969.

47.  "New Israeli Fiction," Commentary, June, 1969.

48.  "Nabokov's Ardor," Commentary, August, 1969.

49.  "On Walter Benjamin," Commentary, September, 1969.

50.  "Invitation to a Beheading:  Nabokov and the Art of Politics," TriQuarterly, Winter, 1970.

51.  "On Lea Goldberg and S. Y. Agnon," Commentary, May, 1970.

52.  "Eliot, Lawrence, and the Jews," Commentary, October, 1970.

53.  "Agnon's Last Word," Commentary, June, 1971.

54.  "Literature and Crisis," Commentary, October, 1971.

55.  "Emancipation, Enlightenment, and All That," Commentary, February, 1972.

56.  "Jewish Humor and the Domestication of Myth," Harvard English Studies, 1972.

57.  "Borges and Stevens:  A Note on Post-Symbolist Writing," TriQuarterly, Fall, 1972.

58.  "Updike, Malamud, and the Fire This Time," Commentary, October, 1972.

59.  "The Modernity of Don Quixote," Southern Review, Spring, 1973.

60.  "The Achievement of Gershom Scholem," Commentary, November, 1973.

61.  "A Poet of the Holocaust," Commentary, November, 1973.

62.  "Hishtalshelut Ha-Olamot b'Ha-Nidakh l'Shai Agnon," Proceedings of the Fifth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 1973.

63.  "Sterne and the Nostalgia for Reality," Far-Western Forum, February, 1974.

64.  "Mandelstam's Witness," Commentary, June, 1974.

65.  "What Jewish Studies Can Do," Commentary, October, 1974.

66.  "Shtetl and Revolution," Commentary, February, 1975.

67.  "History and Imagination in the 19th-Century Novel," Georgia Review, Spring, 1975.

68.  "The Self-Conscious Moment:  Reflections on the Aftermath of Modernism," TriQuarterly 33 (Spring, 1975).

69.  "The New American Novel," Commentary, November, 1975.

70.  "A Literary Approach to the Bible," Commentary, December, 1975.

71.  "Biblical Narrative," Commentary, May, 1976.

72.  Foreword to Marthe Robert, The Old and the New, University of California Press, 1976.

73.  "Poet of Exile," Commentary, February, 1977.

74.  "Edmund Wilson vs. America," Commentary, March, 1978.

75.  “Modernism, Germans, and Jews," Commentary, March, 1978.

76 "Mimesis and the Motive for Fiction," TriQuarterly, Spring, 1978.

77.  "The Education of Alfred Kazin," Commentary, June, 1978.      

78.  "Character in the Bible," Commentary, October, 1978.

79.  "Biblical Type-Scenes and the Uses of Convention," Critical Inquiry, Winter, 1978.

80.  "Literary Lives," Commentary, May, 1979.

81.  "Ada, or the Perils of Eden," Nabokov, a Collection of Essays, ed. Peter Quennell (London, 1979; an extensive expansion of #39).

82.  "The Letters of Gustave Flaubert" (a review-essay), The New Republic, February 23, 1980.

83.  "Sacred History and the Beginnings of Prose Fiction," Poetics Today, 1:3 (Spring, 1980).

84.  "The Travels of Malcolm Cowley," Commentary, August, 1980.

84.  "The American Political Novel," New York Times Book Review, August 3, 1980.

85.  "Nabokov's Lectures on Literature" (a review-essay), The New Republic, October 4, 1980.

86.  "Joseph and his Brothers,"  Commentary, November, 1980.

87.  "Varieties of Jewish Verse," Commentary, July, 1981.

88.  "The Jew That Didn't Get Away:  On the Possibility of an American Jewish Culture," Judaism, Summer, 1982.

89.  "Proust and the Ideological Reader," Salmagundi, Fall, 1982 - Winter, 1983.

90.  "Letter from Israel:  The Writers and the War," New York Times Book Review, March 27, 1983.

91.  "Milosz:  Poetry and Politics," Commentary, April, 1983.

92.  "Deconstruction  in America," The New Republic, April 25, 1983.

93.  "How Convention Helps Us Read:  The Case of the Bible's Annunciation Type-Scene," Prooftexts 3, Spring, 1983.

94.  "The Dynamics of Parallelism," Hebrew University Studies in Literature, Spring, 1983.

95.  "The Inner Immigration of Hebrew Prose," in The Legacy of Jewish Migration, ed. D. Berger, 1983.

96.  "From Line to Story in Biblical Verse," Poetics Today, 4:4, (1983).

97.  "The Decline and Fall of Literary Criticism," Commentary, March, 1984.

98.  "Graduate Training in Hebrew Literature," in New Humanities and Academic Disciplines, ed. J. Neusner, 1984.

99.  "Vistas of Annihilation," Commentary, January, 1985.

100.  "A World Awry" (on Israeli fiction), Times Literary Supplement, May 3, 1985.

101.  "Scripture and Culture," Commentary, August, 1985.

102.  "Biblical Poetry," The New Republic, September 30, 1985.

103.  "The Novel and the Sense of the Past," Salmagundi, Fall 1985 - Winter 1986.

104.  "Kafka's Father, Agnon's Mother, Bellow's Cousins," Commentary, February, 1986.

105.  "Sodom as Nexus:  The Web of Design in Biblical Narrative," Tikkun, 1:1 (Spring, 1986).

106.  "Israel's Master Poet," New York Times Magazine, June 8, 1986.

107.  "Playing Host to the Doppelgänger," Times Literary Supplement, October 24, 1986.

108.  "Old Rabbis, New Critics," The New Republic, January 5 & 12, 1987.

109.  "Defenders of the Jews," Commentary, July, 1987.

110.  "Awakenings" (on Henry Roth), The New Republic, January 25, 1988.

111.  "Inventing Hebrew Prose," Commentary, March, 1988.

112.  "Language as Theme in the Book of Judges," pamphlet, The University of Cincinnati, 1988.

113.  "Putting Together Biblical Narrative," pamphlet, The University of Arizona, 1988.

114.  "What Was T. S. Eliot?" Commentary, March, 1989.

115.  Foreword to The Window:  Poems by Dahlia Ravikovitch, The Sheep Meadow Press, 1989.

116.  "Jewish Mysticism in Dispute," Commentary, September, 1989.

117.  Afterword to Shira, by S. Y. Agnon, Schocken Books, 1989.

118.  "The Spirit and the Letters,"  The New Republic, December 18, 1989.

119.  "Interpreting the Bible," Commentary, March 1990.

120.  "Tyrants and Butterflies," The New Republic, October 15, 1990.

121.  "Harold Bloom's J," Commentary, November 1990.

122.  "Samson Without Folklore," in Text and Tradition, ed. Susan Diditch, 1990.

123.  "The Revolt Against Tradition:  Readers, Writers, and Critics," Partisan Review, Spring 1991.

124.  "From Myth to Murder," The New Republic, May 20, 1991.

125.  "The Israeli Novel and Post-World-War II Fiction," Tel Aviv Review 3, Summer 1991.

126.  "Nabokov and Memory," Partisan Review, Fall 1991.

127.  "Freud's Jewish Problem," Commentary, January, 1992.

128.  "How Important Are the Dead Sea Scrolls?", Commentary, February, 1992.

129.  "Enemies, A Love Story," The New Republic, November 30, 1992.

130.  "Fogel and the Forging of a Hebrew Self," Prooftexts, January 1993.

131.  "Autobiography as Alchemy in Pale Fire," Cycnos 10:1, 1993.

132.  "Kafka as Kabbalist," Salmagundi, Spring 1993.

133.  "Modernism and Nostalgia," Partisan Review, Summer, 1993.

134.  "Who Is Shylock?", Commentary, July 1993.

135.  "In Responsibilities Begin Dreams," The New Republic, November 1, 1993.

136.  "The Persistence of Reading," Partisan Review, Fall, 1993.

137.  "Beauty and the Best," The New Republic, October 10, 1994.

138.  "Scholem and Modernism," Poetics Today, Fall, 1994.

139.  "Imagining History in the Bible," in History and...History Within the Human Sciences, ed. R. Cohen and M. Roth, University of Virginia Press, 1995.

140.  Foreword, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, by Gershom Scholem, Schocken Books, 1995

141.  Afterword, The Song of Songs, tr. Ariel and Chana Bloch, Random House, 1995.

142.  "The Jewish Voice," Commentary, October, 1995.

143.  "Stendhal, Fielding and the Fiction of Discrimination," Providence, Fall, 1995.

144. "Reading the Psalms," First Things, December, 1995.

145.  "Reading Style in Dickens," Philosophy and Literature, April, 1996.

146.  "Magic Realism in the Israeli Novel," Prooftexts, May, 1996

147.  "Beyond King James," Commentary, September, 1996.

148. "James Joyce's Comic Messiah," The American Scholar, Summer, 1997.

149. “A Readiness to Be Surprised”  (On the Literary Imagination), Times Literary Supplement, January 23, 1998. 

150. “The Double Canonicity of the Hebrew Bible,” in Insider/Outsider, ed. D. Biale, M. Galchinsky, and S. Heschel, University of California Press, 1998.

151. “The Old and the New” (On Kafka’s The Castle), The New Republic, April 13, 1998

152. “The Poetic and Wisdom Books,” in The Cambridge Companion to Biblical Interpretation, ed. John Barton, Cambridge University Press, 1998.

153. “Joyce’s Ulysses and the Common Reader,” Modernism / Modernity, Fall 1998.

154. “The David Story,” Literary Imagination, Spring 1999.

155. “A Question of Beginnings,”  Eighteenth-Century  Fiction 12:2-3, January-April 2000.

156. “Franz Kafka: Wrestling with Scripture,” The New England Review, Fall 2000.

157. "Saul Tchernikhovsky's To the Sun ," Literary Imagination, Spring 2001.

158. "The Wilkomirski Affair" (a review-essay), The New Republic, April 30, 2001.

159. "Northrop Frye entre archetype et typologie," Recherches de Science Religieuse, July-September, 2001.

160. ‘The Song of Songs: An Ode to Intimacy,” Bible Review,  August 2002

161.“Philip Roth’s America,” Profils américains 15 (Fall 2002)

162. “Scripture, Commentary, and the Challenge of Interpretation,”  Graven Images, 2002

163. “Translating from the Ancient: The Hebrew Bible,” Literary Imagination 5:2 (Spring 2003)

164. “Past Imperfect,”  The New Republic, December 27, 2004

165. “One Man’s Kafka,” The New Republic,  April 25, 2005

166. “The Flow” (on the fiction of S. Yizhar), The New Republic, June 18, 2007

167. “Jeanne’s Way” (on Proust’s mother), The New Republic, March 26, 2008

168. “Fielding’s Legacy in Fiction,” in Henry Fielding, ed. Claude Rawson, University of Delaware Press, 2008

169.  “Only Words to Play With,” The New Republic, June 25, 2008

  For the sake of brevity, the following categories of items are not listed:
(a) book-reviews, about 240 of which appeared from 1962 to the present (in the Times Literary Supplement, The London Review of Books, The New Republic, Commentary, the New York Times Book Review,  and elsewhere  (review-essays of  4000 words  or more are listed above as articles); (b) Translations of article-length material.  Various essays and chapters from books have been translated into Spanish, Italian, German, Swedish, Hungarian, Portuguese, and Hebrew; (c) reprints of any of the articles or chapters of the books; (d) About twenty published essays on cultural and political issues that are only obliquely related to my professional concerns as a literary critic and scholar.

Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley