One-Day Symposium, May 24, 2001
For several decades, literary scholars in North America, Europe, and Israel have engaged in a discussion about the value and importance of employing fiction and poetry in reflections upon the Holocaust. Many of the issues central to this ongoing dialogue remain hotly debated, including the ways in which the history and memory of the Holocaust are transmitted in literature; the public reception of those transmissions; the relationship between oral testimony and literature; and the potentially therapeutic value of using literature to confront the emotional trauma left behind after the genocide. This program is a unique opportunity to hear from 12 leading academics and literary critics whose work examines and analyzes literary treatments of the Holocaust.
Literature is obliged, by its own inner laws, to seek out details, and from them, and only from them, to present some truth.
—Aharon Appelfeld, Beyond Despair (1994)
Introductory Comments—Paul A. Shapiro, Director, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Paul A. Shapiro is Director, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM. He served earlier as Assistant to the Museum Director for Special Projects. Before joining the Museum, Mr. Shapiro was involved for over a decade in the development of the Museum’s archival collections. A specialist in the Holocaust in Romania and a former editor of the Journal of International Affairs (New York) and Problems of Communism (Washington), Mr. Shapiro holds degrees in government, international affairs, and history from Harvard University and Columbia University.
The Methodological Value of Fiction for Approaching Memory of the Holocaust—Geoffrey H. Hartman, Sterling Professor (Emeritus) of English and Comparative Literature, and Project Director, Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University, New Haven
Geoffrey H. Hartman is Sterling Professor (Emeritus) of English and Comparative Literature, and Project Director, Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, New Haven. Dr. Hartman has lectured and taught throughout the United States, Europe, Israel, and South America. He was a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was awarded an honorary degree from Queens College of the City University of New York, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In addition to numerous significant works on literature and literary theory, Professor Hartman is author of The Longest Shadow: In the Aftermath of the Holocaust (1996) and, most recently, Critic’s Journey: Literary Reflections, 1958–1998 (1999).
Session I: Bearing Witness through Literature
Nostalgia, Home, and Exile in Contemporary Representations of the Holocaust—Sara R. Horowitz, Associate Professor of English, Division of Humanities, and Associate Director, Centre for Jewish Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario
Sara R. Horowitz is Associate Professor of English, Division of Humanities, and Associate Director, Centre for Jewish Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario. Dr. Horowitz has published more than 50 scholarly articles and reviews, including "Gender, Genocide, and Jewish Memory" (2000) and "The Cinematic Triangulation of Jewish American Identity: Israel, America, and the Holocaust" (1999). In 1995 she received the Association of Jewish Libraries Award for Outstanding Judaica Reference Book for co-editing Jewish American Women Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical and Critical Sourcebook (1994), and in 1997 her study Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction was selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Book.
"Holocaust" and "War" as Paradigms in Israeli Literature and Culture—Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature, Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. The author of nearly 30 scholarly articles and two highly regarded books, Professor Ezrahi has written for more than two decades on modern Jewish identity, on poetry, and on the Holocaust in Jewish literature. She held a National Endowment for the Humanities stipend in 1985; in 1981 her book By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature (1980) was a finalist for the Leon Jolson Award, a category of the National Jewish Book Awards. Professor Ezrahi’s latest book is Booking Passage: On Exile and Homecoming in the Modern Jewish Imagination (2000).
Commentary—James E. Young, Professor of English and Judaic Studies, and Chair, Judaic Studies Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
James E. Young is Professor of English and Judaic Studies, and Chair, Judaic Studies Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dr. Young was Dorot Professor of English and Hebrew/Judaic Studies at New York University from 1980 to 1984 and is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, ACLS Fellowship, and a Yad Hanadiv Fellowship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He published Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust in 1988 and his book The Texture of Memory (1993) won the National Jewish Book Award in 1994. He is presently at work on two new books, After-image: The Uncanny Arts of Holocaust Memory and A Vicarious Past: My Received History of the Holocaust.
Session II: Transmission and Reception
Imagining Cultural Genocide since 1948: The Story of How Texts Become Persons—Amy Hungerford, Assistant Professor of English and American Studies, Yale University, New Haven
Amy Hungerford is Assistant Professor of English and American Studies, Yale University, New Haven. Dr. Hungerford is also Assistant Director of Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center and founder of the Whitney Center’s Holocaust Working Group. In 1997–1998 she served as assistant editor for the journal English Literary History, and she is currently on the editorial board of the Yale Journal of Criticism. Dr. Hungerford published "Surviving Rego Park: Holocaust Theory from Art Spiegelman to Berel Lang," in 1999 and her latest article "Memorizing Memory," recently appeared in the Yale Journal of Criticism.
The Aesthetic of Complicity and the American Literary Response to the Holocaust—R. Clifton Spargo, Assistant Professor of English, Marquette University, Milwaukee, and 2000–2001 Pearl Resnick Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies
R. Clifton Spargo is Assistant Professor of English, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and 2000–2001 Pearl Resnick Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. A graduate of Yale University, Professor Spargo has published a number of scholarly articles, including "Inventing Anne Frank: Philip Roth’s Parodic Elegy in The Ghost Writer." Dr. Spargo held a Marquette University administered Mellon Grant in 1996 and is conducting work on American literature and the Holocaust while in residence at the Center.
Representing the Holocaust in Postcolonial Narrative—Michael Rothberg, Assistant Professor of English, University of Miami, Florida
Michael Rothberg is Assistant Professor of English, University of Miami, Florida. Before joining the faculty at the University of Miami in 1995, Dr. Rothberg taught literature at Queens College, City University of New York. He was a visiting fellow at Cornell University’s Institute for German Cultural Studies and was awarded a fellowship at Northwestern University’s Summer Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilization. Dr. Rothberg is the author of a dozen scholarly articles, and his book Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2000. He is currently editing the forthcoming volume The Holocaust: History, Memory, Theory: A Reader.
Commentary—Alvin H. Rosenfeld, Professor of English, and Director, Borns Jewish Studies Program, Indiana University, Bloomington
Alvin H. Rosenfeld is Professor of English, and Director, Borns Jewish Studies Program, Indiana University, Bloomington. A graduate of Brown University, Professor Rosenfeld has edited, co-edited, or authored seven books altogether, including Thinking about the Holocaust: After Half a Century (1997), Confronting the Holocaust: The Impact of Elie Wiesel (1979), and the influential A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature (1980). Professor Rosenfeld served as a judge for the National Jewish Book Awards from 1980 to 1984 and continues to foster Holocaust scholarship as a member of the editorial boards of Shoah: Review of Holocaust Studies and Dimensions: A Journal of Holocaust Studies, and as a member of the editorial advisory board of Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
Session III: Trauma, Testimony and Holocaust Literature
Death in Language: From Mado’s Mourning to the Act of Writing—Petra Schweitzer, PhD candidate, Department of Comparative Literature, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
Petra Schweitzer is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Ms. Schweitzer has held research grants at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel, and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France. Her dissertation, "Art under Duress: Visual and Verbal Representations of the Holocaust," examines the ways in which the works of Charlotte Delbo, Imre Kertsz, Moshe Kupferman, and Shimon Attie provide access to the Holocaust experience through artistic representation and the transmission of traumatic memories.
"And in the Distance You Hear Music, a Band Playing": Reflections on Chaos and Order in Literature and Testimony—Sidney M. Bolkosky, William E. Stirton Professor in the Social Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Sidney M. Bolkosky is William E. Stirton Professor in the Social Sciences, University of Michigan–Dearborn. A specialist in working with the oral testimonies of Holocaust survivors, Professor Bolkosky has published more than 20 scholarly articles and books, including The Distorted Image: German-Jewish Perceptions of Germans and Germany, 1920–1935 (1975), "Voices of Anne Frank," (1997), and "Voices, Visions and Silence: Reflections on Listening to Holocaust Survivors" (1999). He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from the Michigan Council for the Humanities, and in 1993 consulted on the film Testimony for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Professor Bolkosky is currently editing a volume of essays tentatively titled Holocaust Survivor Interviews: Breaking and Reconstructing the Silences.
A Voice in Conflict: Primo Levi and Poetic Silence—Jonathan M. Alexander, Lecturer in Holocaust Literature, Burlington County College, Pemberton, New Jersey
Jonathan M. Alexander is Lecturer in Holocaust Literature, Burlington County College, Pemberton, New Jersey. A graduate of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Professor Alexander recently completed his doctoral dissertation, "Composing the Self, Communing in Silence: Voice and Identity in Poetry of the Holocaust." He has taught at Widener University and Rider University and served as Development Coordinator for the Burlington County College Center for Social Justice and Holocaust Studies.
Commentary—Lawrence L. Langer, Alumnae Chair Professor of English (Emeritus), Simmons College, Boston
Lawrence L. Langer is Alumnae Chair Professor of English (Emeritus), Simmons College, Boston. A Harvard University graduate, Professor Langer is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading scholars of Holocaust literature and remembrance. His book The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination (1975) broke new ground at the time of its publication and Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (1991) was named one of the ten best books of the year by the editors of the New York Times Book Review. Professor Langer was the 1996–1997 J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Senior Scholar-in-Residence at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He published Preempting the Holocaust with Yale University Press in 1998.