Constructing the Modern Jewish “Present”: Time and Time Cycles in HaTzfira

Zef Segal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The modern periodical is an important medium in the construction of
time. Its appearance and cycles of production turn artificial time cycles into seemingly
natural and accepted social rhythms. Most importantly, periodicals play an
important role in the construction of the “present” as a time frame of occurrences
that happen “now”. However, the reproduced “present” shouldn’t be understood
independently of the production cycle of the periodical.
Accordingly, this study characterizes the differences resulting from the shift
in time cycles of the nineteenth-century Hebrew periodical HaTzfira. This periodical
started in 1862 as a weekly and was transformed in 1886 into a daily. In order
to explore the change, this chapter compares the discourse in the three years
prior to the conversion of this weekly into daily (1883–1885) with the discourse in
the three years following this conversion (1886–1888).
Through the use of computational tools, and in particular topic modeling
algorithms, which offer a general overview of large-scale textual corpora, this
chapter compares discursive patterns before and after 1886. This comparison is
based, on the one hand, on a nuanced qualitative analysis of the resultant topics,
and on the other hand, on an original mathematical analysis of the resultant
vector space. On a theoretical level, this comparison helps characterize the differences
between the discursive rhythms of weeklies and dailies. It also contributes
to the introduction of computational tools into the study of Hebrew historical
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationJewish Studies in the Digital Age
EditorsGerben Zaagsma, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra, Miriam Rürup, Michelle Margolis, Amalia S. Levi
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherDe Gruyter Oldenbourg
ISBN (Electronic)9783110744828
ISBN (Print)9783110744699
StatePublished - 2022


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