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Fathers, killers, God, and ‘Maus’

first_imgFor many, the cartoonist Art Spiegelman’s “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” is not just an unshakable Holocaust narrative, but a classic engagement, and struggle, with Jewish identity.Today, more than 30 years after the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel appeared, Spiegelman still has trouble making sense of his religion and culture. “The relationship is fraught,” said the 69-year-old during an early-semester visit to Harvard. “I don’t know how to take solace in religion.”Speaking candidly to a class of comparative literature students, Spiegelman was animated on topics ranging from his sense of responsibility to future generations to post-Charlie Hebdo life as an artist. Wearing his signature vest but not his signature fedora, his responses blended the humorous and the heavy.Spiegelman described Vladek, the father protagonist in “Maus,” as “the Larry David of Auschwitz.” Of his own Jewish identity crisis, he acknowledged “a tribal connection” and called himself a “spokesperson of Jewishness,” but emotional conflict followed, especially when the conversation turned to life and death.Recalling surgery for a brain cyst a few years ago, he confided: “I thought that was that.”“Do I find religion like you’re supposed to at the end of your life?” he wondered at the time. “About the only thing I could find to take solace in was the church of the absurd, the existential. … I can’t find it in Jewishness.”“Maus,” set in New York in the late 1970s with flashback panels to World War II, crosses genres from biography and memoir to historical fiction, with animated mice, cats, and pigs telling the story of Spiegelman and his father, a Holocaust survivor. Theirs is a relationship shadowed by the pain of the past.Allie Freiwald ’18, who is writing her thesis on representations of the Holocaust in art and culture, was amused that Spiegelman was “more comfortable identifying as a Cartoonist-American,” but said later that she was “somewhat troubled” that he questioned his Jewishness.“I understand, albeit through my vastly different frame of reference and set of life experiences, what it is to doubt religion, and Judaism in particular, in our secularized diaspora,” Freiwald said. “There is ‘Holokitsch,’ as he calls it, and, in my opinion, plenty of other Jewish kitsches. And there is a weird mixture of pride and revulsion upon reflecting that someone or something becomes more attractive by virtue of its inclusion in the ‘tribe’ — how did we inherit that?”Such is the struggle of the mind behind “Maus.” Inside Spiegelman is both a legendary cartoonist and a boy haunted by his family’s Holocaust story.“When I was growing up, it’s not such a good idea to be a Jew. They killed you,” he said.Admitting that he still has “trouble drawing in ways that don’t make sense for someone who has been doing this their whole life,” Spiegelman also noted that “Maus” was not intended “to make the world a better place.”“It’s a cartoonist’s job to tell stories. I wanted to find a story worth telling,” he said, adding that parent-child relations were also in play. “I wanted to be in touch with my father. I didn’t want to be in touch with my father.”The night before his meeting with students, Spiegelman engaged with an equally captivated audience at Sanders Theatre in a Center for Jewish Studies-sponsored talk titled “Comix, Jews ’n Art? Dun’t Esk!!”Hillary Chute, a former visiting professor and junior fellow at Harvard and now an English professor at Northeastern University, introduced him as “brilliant and brilliantly uncompromising.”“Spiegelman has always been reluctant to identify with … any group besides cartoonists,” she said, recalling that there were many times while they were collaborating on the “Maus” companion “MetaMaus” (2012) when he told her he could not continue. “He said to me in exasperation, ‘Anything about Jews, guilt, or war? I don’t want to talk about it.’”Spiegelman took the audience on a historical tour of comics, folding stories about favorite artists into personal anecdotes. As a kid, he perused Harvey Kurtzman’s Mad magazine “the way some kids studied Talmud.”In the classroom, Isaiah Michalski ’21, who is from Germany, asked Spiegelman if there was anything he wouldn’t draw. The artist mentioned ways he has spoken out in both comic form and at protests against the police killings of Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner, and the Charlie Hebdo massacre.“Artists should draw anything they want to draw and be more sensitive,” he said. “I think it’s important to find that balance between anger and empathy.”last_img read more

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Five lessons from Toni Morrison

first_img Related HDS series probes aspects of religion in Nobelist author’s writings In her first Norton Lecture, novelist Toni Morrison quotes standard historical passages to drive home the depths of evil In 2012, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison took the stage in Sanders Theatre and spoke to a rapt audience about goodness, altruism, and the literary imagination.On that same stage Thursday afternoon, Harvard Divinity School (HDS) paid homage to Morrison, who passed away in August.Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America at HDS, who knew Morrison as both a friend and colleague, gave the keynote address during “Toni Morrison Stories: Goodness and Mercy and Mexico.” He spoke of Morrison’s quest to confront the evils of racism and place goodness and mercy at the heart of her writings and teachings.Through five stories of Morrison, Carrasco shared five lessons: she was a reader before and while she was a writer; racism is a cosmology that is programmed into people through practice; her imagination was open to crossing borders; she wrote out of joy and responsibility — especially to black women; and goodness and mercy were in her writings.Carrasco recounted the stages of Morrison’s interest in exploring the racial unconsciousness in American thought and literature, especially in the writings of Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ernest Hemingway. He explained that Morrison appealed to students to read more widely and deeply, something she not only preached, but practiced.“During all the years she was a writer she read social history, art history, literary method, political theory, history of religion, anthropology, and feminism,” he said. “Her multidisciplinary reading meant she was never a static author, never writing the slight variation on the same theme again and again.”Punctuating Carrasco’s stories of Morrison were clips from the film “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” which was released earlier this year.,Cornel West, HDS professor of the practice of public philosophy, also spoke about his work and friendship with Morrison. He called her “a black metaphysician who understood that if you want to understand anything about what it means to be human and what it means to be modern, sooner or later you’re going to have to come to terms with the great tradition of a people who were enslaved and Jim Crowed and thoroughly hated, but taught the world so much of love. Love of wisdom. Love of goodness. Love of God. Love of truth.”Morrison had strong ties to Harvard University. She received an honorary degree in 1989, was awarded the 2007 Radcliffe Institute Medal, spoke during the inauguration of former President Drew Faust in 2007, and delivered the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures in 2016.The lively event paid tribute to Morrison not only through stories, but also with music, singing, and acting.Actor Alexandria Danielle King gave a stirring and emotional performance of “What She Gave,” a dramatic reading of Morrison’s prose interspersed with powerful singing. Pianist and composer Danilo Pérez also performed a new composition created for Morrison titled “Beloved.”Music was used poignantly during the event to pay tribute to Anne E. Monius, professor of South Asian religions at HDS, who died this summer. Monius was at work on a book about Bob Marley and religion, and she was remembered with the playing of Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”The event, which also served as HDS’s Convocation, included a welcome from Dean David N. Hempton.“This Convocation is indeed a celebration of life, of courage, of the language of freedom, and new beginnings,” said Hempton.Ramona Peters, a Wampanoag elder, opened the event by welcoming new students to their location on the ancestral lands of the Massachusett, Nipmuc, and Wampanoag peoples.“We as Wampanoag people have hosted many a traveler from far-off lands who have come to find their own personal medicine, their spiritual medicine to help them grow. They take that and go back to their homelands and bring it to their people,” she said. “So I’m welcoming you here, on behalf of the Wampanoag people, and hope that you find your medicine.”West ended the event with a blessing.“Let us go forth with a spiritual fortitude and a moral determination, especially young students, to leave this world just a little better than you found it so that the afterlife of not just Sister Toni, but Sister Anne, too, is at work in our lives. Let’s keep the love and justice going.” Morrison reads at the Memorial Churchcenter_img Nobel laureate marks inauguration of Drew Faust The sacred Toni Morrison Slavery’s chilling shadowlast_img read more

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NegOcc guv to consumers: ‘Patronize local pork’

first_imgBACOLOD City – With several weeksleading to holiday season, Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson renewed his call toNegrenses to patronize locally-produced pork products. The decision to extend the ban,according to Lacson, came after some products of Pampanga-based Mekeni FoodsCorporation tested positive of ASF. Lacson, who chairs the province’s ASFtask force, will hold a public hearing today on the proposed ordinance seekingfor an extension of the pork ban. Lacson bared last week his plan toextend until next year the ban on live hogs and pork products from Luzon andother countries affected by the African swine fever (ASF), a highly contagiousdisease that is deadly to pigs but harmless to humans. Negros Occidental ranks first in termsof backyard swine production in the country, according to the PhilippineStatistics Authority (PSA)./PN “ASF is already spreading in Luzon andit is no longer limited to the three [initial] provinces identified before,” hestressed. “Support our local industry and buy local pork products.” The governor earlier issued ExecutiveOrder 19-40, series of 2019, which for 90 days bars the entry of pork productsfrom ASF-affected areas.last_img read more

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Letter to the editor: Partners in Progress

first_imgDear Editor:This Thanksgiving Day, as we gather with family and friends to count our blessings, let’s give thanks for the bounty we enjoy not just on this holiday, but every day.  The safe, plentiful food that is available to us, and the products we use on a daily basis, didn’t just appear in  a store.  They got there thanks to a tremendous partnership of farmers and ranchers, processors, brokers, truckers, shippers, advertisers, wholesalers, and retailers.Rural and urban residents are “Partners in Progress” who produce the products, consume the products, and make them readily available through an efficient production and marketing chain.  Farmers and ranchers are just the beginning of that chain.  Farm workers, researchers, processors, shippers, truck drivers, inspectors, wholesalers, agribusinesses, marketers, advertisers, retailers, and consumers all play important roles in the incredible productivity that has made our nation’s food and fiber system the envy of the world.This week, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, let’s remember the vital farm-city partnerships that have done so much to improve the quality of our lives.  Rural and urban communities working together have made the most of our rich agricultural resources, and have made significant contributions to our health and well-being and to the strength of our nation’s economy.  For this, we can give thanks.Helen NorrisPresident, Sumner County Farm Bureau Association Close Forgot password? Please put in your email: Send me my password! Close message Login This blog post All blog posts Subscribe to this blog post’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Subscribe to this blog’s comments through… RSS Feed Subscribe via email Subscribe Follow the discussion Comment (1) Logging you in… Close Login to IntenseDebate Or create an account Username or Email: Password: Forgot login? Cancel Login Close WordPress.com Username or Email: Password: Lost your password? Cancel Login Dashboard | Edit profile | Logout Logged in as Admin Options Disable comments for this page Save Settings Sort by: Date Rating Last Activity Loading comments… You are about to flag this comment as being inappropriate. Please explain why you are flagging this comment in the text box below and submit your report. The blog admin will be notified. Thank you for your input. 0 Vote up Vote down guest · 351 weeks ago Amen. Report Reply 0 replies · active 351 weeks ago Post a new comment Enter text right here! Comment as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new comments Comments by IntenseDebate Enter text right here! Reply as a Guest, or login: Login to IntenseDebate Login to WordPress.com Login to Twitter Go back Tweet this comment Connected as (Logout) Email (optional) Not displayed publicly. Name Email Website (optional) Displayed next to your comments. Not displayed publicly. If you have a website, link to it here. Posting anonymously. Tweet this comment Cancel Submit Comment Subscribe to None Replies All new commentslast_img read more

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