Horowitz delivers museum’s first seminar in Holocaust literature

It was a first for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and an honour for York Professor Sara R. Horowitz the first time someone had taught a seminar on Holocaust literature at the museum.

Horowitz (left), associate director of York’s Centre for Jewish Studies, taught the second week of a two-week seminar held at the museum in Washington, D.C., in early June.

Also of York’s Department of Languages, Literatures & Linguistics, Horowitz was one of three pre-eminent scholars in the field of Holocaust literature who served as seminar leaders. Teaching with her were Geoffrey Hartman,Yale University, and Cliff Spargo, Marquette University.

“It was a great honour to be invited by the USHMM’s Center for Advance Holocaust Studies to teach a seminar on Holocaust literature for professors of literature,” said Horowitz who, for the past two years, has been a member of USHMM’s Academic Committee for the Centre for Advanced Holocaust Studies. The advisory committee gives direction to research, publishing and educational programs.

“The centre’s work has largely been defined by historians, and I appreciate their willingness to open up the mandate of the museum to the insights, approaches and methodologies of literary studies.”

In her seminar, Horowitz provided an in-depth examination of Holocaust literature, both fiction and non-fiction, including what it adds to the historical study of the Nazi genocide and how it can be used in Holocaust education. Admittance into the two-week program was highly selective, limited to 20 attendees, one of whom was York Professor Belarie Zatzman of the Department of Theatre, Faculty of Fine Arts.

Participants explored how history and memory are represented in literature; the relationship between oral testimony and literature; and the potentially therapeutic value of using literature to confront the emotional trauma left behind following the genocide.

“Literature plays an increasingly important role in helping college students understand the Holocaust, ” said Paul Shapiro, director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. “Participants in this seminar represent the leading edge of North American scholarship and teaching on the Holocaust through literature.”

Right: Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.

The Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies was established in 1998 to promote the growth of the field of Holocaust studies and ensure the training of future generations of scholars specializing in the Holocaust.

The USHMM is the US’s national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as the country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust.