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Writing the Holocaust

Modified: April 19, 2016
Writing the Holocaust Annual Lecture
Writing the Holocaust
Presented by the Holocaust Educational Foundation of Northwestern University
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 4:00 PM, Harris Hall 107

The partisan and poet Abba Kovner recalled opening the door to a room in the Vilna Ghetto and finding a man seated at an old sewing machine who was sewing not cloth but empty white paper.  What, Kovner asked in astonishment, was he doing?  “I’m writing,” he said.  On a sewing machine?  “I’m writing the history of the Ghetto.”  Without thread?  “I will thread it later.  When we survive this, I shall put the thread into the holes.”  What such a text might have told us we can only guess, but we may see in it an allegory of Holocaust writing, tantalizing in its diversity and fragility.  Focusing on testimony written during and soon after the war, Writing the Holocaust will present a wide-ranging view of work that was remarkable for speaking candidly of the unbearable with equal measures of brute force and subtlety.

Eric J. Sundquist is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches in the Department of English.  He is the author or editor of thirteen books, including Strangers in the Land: Blacks, Jews, Post-Holocaust America, which received the Weinberg Judaic Studies Institute Book Award, and To Wake the Nations: Race in the Making of American Literature, which received the Christian Gauss Award from Phi Beta Kappa and the James Russell Lowell Award from the Modern Language Association.  From 1997 to 2002, he was Dean of the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University. 

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