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College of Arts & Sciences
Jewish Studies Program

Esther Frank Lecture

Tuesday, April 14, 2009 - 3:00pm

"Yiddish Writing after the Holocaust: An Act of Survival"

Esther Frank
Jewish Studies, McGill University


Theodor Adorno famously said that writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. The work of the Yiddish poet, essayist, and short story writer Rachel (Rokhl) Korn, spanning Europe and America from the years 1918-1982, repudiates this claim. She was one of a few Yiddish writers who lived through The Wars, first in Warsaw, Poland, until 1939, and then in the former Soviet Union, until 1948, when she moved to Canada. Her writing in the post war years won her international critical renown as she continued working in Yiddish and was translated into English and other languages. 

Choosing to write in the language of her culture, Korn deliberately returned to conventions of the lyric that she developed before the Second World War, redefining and affirming in her art what was destroyed in her life. By writing in Yiddish she gets around a deep ambivalence thwarting other post-war poets about the efficacy of signification in general and of art in particular, and thereby offers readers a different view than do those poets of the project of writing and of its cultural significance.

[Sponsored by European Studies, Jewish Studies, and Walker Institute of International and Area Studies]


Place: Close/Hipp Building (BA) 855

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