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Dr. Sarah Liu
2010-2011 Judith B. and Burton P. Resnick Postdoctoral Fellow

"The Illiterate Reader: Ethical Interpretation after Auschwitz"

Professional Background

Sarah Liu is a Research Associate at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She received her Ph.D. in English at the University of California, Berkeley, and did her undergraduate work in English at both Yale University and Stanford University. For her Judith B. and Burton P. Resnick Postdoctoral Fellowship, Dr. Liu conducted research for her project “The Illiterate Reader: Ethical Interpretation after Auschwitz.”

Dr. Liu is the author of “The Illiterate Reader: Aphasia after Auschwitz” in Partial Answers: Journal of Literature and the History of Ideas 7.2 (June 2009) and “Bones of Jade, Soul of Ice,” awarded the Bellevue Literary Prize for Nonfiction (Spring 2007). She has presented her research at numerous conferences in the United States and Israel. She is the recipient of several awards both academic and literary, including the University of California Regents Faculty Fellowship (2000-2002), the Joan Lee Yang Memorial Poetry Award (2000), and the Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship (1996-1997). Dr. Liu is fluent in Mandarin and French, with language skills in German as well.

Fellowship Research

During her tenure at the Center, Dr. Liu examined how the individual act of conscientious reading can productively contribute to social memory and ethics. Her project studied disruptions caused to the hermeneutic circle by traumatic events such as the Holocaust. After such a traumatic event, questions arise as to how to represent what seems beyond the capability of word or image to express, and how to share an experience when no common points of reference exist. Dr. Liu proposed possible models for renewal, structured around the rhetorical figure of oxymoron: illiterate reading, useless knowledge, insightful blindness, and fictional truth. To complete her research, Dr. Liu used the Museum’s extensive collections of documents and photographs, exploring the dynamics of verbal-visual interaction in the Museum’s exhibits and videotapes of survivor testimonies.

Dr. Liu was in residence at the Mandel Center from September 1, 2010 to March 30, 2011.