Good morning and Happy 4th of July. It is a wonderful warm and sunny day here in Yankton, South Dakota, and before I begin the potato salad making process, I would like to introduce myself. Although I am part of the Holocaust seminar, I am new to our discussions. For some reason I have not been able to log on to CUNY, so I am very glad that Larry has created this site.
What I value most about the blogs so far is the diversity of our experiences and passions. I know I will come away from this seminar with much information for myself and my students. I am an associate professor of English at Mt. Marty College, a small Benedictine college in southeastern South Dakota, and I teach freshman composition, adolescent literature, advanced composition, and two recently-developed courses: one in literature and health care and the other an honors course on the Holocaust.
I would generally describe my teaching and research approaches as inter-disciplinary. My dissertation was on classical musical structures in Hemingway’s early fiction. One of my goals through this seminar is to develop several lessons that include “the gift of music” in pre-war and post-war Jewish culture as well as during the Holocaust. A quotation by Leonard Bernstein describes the impact of music in my life and what may have been the continued presence of music within Jewish culture: “Life without music is unthinkable, music without life is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace.” I believe that this integration of music and literature will offer an additional dimension to my adolescent literature and honors course. Another goal is to develop an interdisciplinary approach to the Holocaust that I can share with middle school and high school teachers in a teacher/consultant workshop I will develop with the DWP director, Michelle Rogge Gannon.
As I explained in my application letter, I was reticent to study the Holocaust for many years. I do know that as the mother of four young children, I avoided seeing or reading Sophie’s Choice. Even as a college English professor, I did not see Schindler’s List until long after it came out on DVD because I had been told it was so graphic, and I do not enjoy violent movies. Perhaps I also sensed my own German ancestry carried with it a feeling of guilt or my often-undisclosed Native American heritage would increase my sense of victimization. However, during the last few years, one of my primary areas of research and reading has been the Holocaust, the Jewish and German resistance, and recollections by survivors. One of my most powerful emotional experiences during the last few years was observing my son play the role of Leo Frank in the musical Parade, and watching him being lynched at the end of the show.
I am very much looking forward to learning so much more about the Holocaust, the American anti-Semitism of the early to mid-twentieth century that we often fail to acknowledge, and how these relate to other genocides. But, most of all, I am looking forward to learning from others of you who are participating in this seminar. I believe that this seminar will become a very special gift for each of us. I will see you on Monday!!