Salvage Poetics The Photographs That Helped Us Reconstruct a Lost World
Lecture Presented May 15, 2022
How do American Jews “know what they think they know” about pre-Holocaust European Jewish life?
The Old World in Image and Imagination. How do American Jews “know what they think they know” about pre-Holocaust European Jewish life? Chicago YIVO Society hosts this free zoom event by Dr. Sheila Jelen as she examines the role that images by photographers such as Roman Vishniac played in shaping the post-Holocaust reconstruction of that world among American Jews. What rhetorical and visual strategies were used to build bridges between different kinds of Jews in different historical moments?
Sheila E. Jelen
Sheila Jelen is the Zantker Professor of Jewish Literature, Culture and History at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. She is the author of Salvage Poetics: American-Jewish Post Holocaust Folk Ethnographies (2020) and Intimations of Difference: Dvora Baron in the Modern Hebrew Renaissance (2007). She has edited numerous volumes, including Reconstructing the Old Country: American Jewry in the Post-Holocaust Decades (2017), Modern Jewish Literatures: Intersections and Boundaries (2011), and Hebrew, Gender and Modernity (2007). Her work has appeared in such journals as Prooftexts, The Jewish Quarterly Review, The AJS Review, Religion and Literature, Comparative Literature Studies and Hebrew Studies. She is currently working on two books. The first, titled Israeli Salvage Poetics explores the ways in which Israeli writers and scholars have represented East European Jewish life in their work from the 1930s to the present. The second, titled Testimonial Montage: A Family of Holocaust Testimonies from the Cracow Ghetto considers, through a literary lens, the testimonies of a group of Israeli Holocaust survivors who were active in the ghetto uprising. Finally, Jelen has begun work on a project titled Images and Imaginings: Menachem Kipnis’s Photographs and Folk Stories. This work will feature both folktales collected and photographs taken by Menachem Kipnis (1878–1942), a singer, critic, photographer, and ethnographer of Yiddish song who died in the Warsaw ghetto.