“Painful Remembrance” is the subject of the Winter 2020 issue of Athenaeum Review, with five articles exploring how difficult memories are shaped and passed on through literature, the arts, and public monuments. The special issue is guest-edited by Nils Roemer, interim dean of the School of the Arts and Humanities, director of the Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Stan and Barbara Rabin Professor in Holocaust Studies.
The capital city of Germany is the subject of Roemer’s article. In “Berlin, Intersecting Traumas,” Roemer shows how the German capital’s urban landscape reveals layer upon layer of the city’s past. Monuments such as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe offer testimony to the victims of the Holocaust, while the very “tormented and twisted zig-zag structure” of Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum building offers a clue as to the history it exhibits. “It is witnessing,” Roemer writes, “that allows for the representation of past traumas and anguish.”
Through examples from ancient Rome, China, and contemporary America, Dennis M. Kratz explores how myths shape our collective memory of the past in his article, “Mythremembering: Memory and Its Fictions.” According to Kratz, the Ignacy and Celina Rockover Professor of Humanities, Senior Associate Provost, and Director of the Center for Asian Studies, “The transformation of memories emerges from the creativity of the human mind and our indomitable dissatisfaction with limits.” Mythremembering, he writes, “involves a pattern of departures from accuracy or evidence to enhance the power of a story, usually to the advantage of the person telling the story.”
Combining personal experience with historical analysis, Richard R. Brettell explores the differing responses to two American national tragedies in “A Tale Of Two Memorials: Dallas And New York,” comparing the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza in Dallas with the National September 11 Memorial in New York. “In the case of the Kennedy Assassination, there was a greater inclination on the part of the city of Dallas and of the Kennedy family to forget than to be reminded of the location of this event, to take away the inevitable stain on the city’s reputation,” writes Brettell, who is the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, Edith O’Donnell Distinguished Chair of Art History, and Founding Director of the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History.
Sarah da Rocha Valente contributes “Exile At Home, or At Home in Exile,” a reflection on belonging, family and history, centered on a visit to her sister’s gravesite in Brazil. Valente, visiting assistant professor in the School of Arts and Humanities, uses her experience to reflect on the meaning of exile, as expressed in the literature of Victor Hugo, Josef Brodsky, and Mario Benedetti. Remembering her experience across different languages and literatures, Valente writes, “Portuguese provides the perfect possibility of missing the unknown, the yet-to-be, the never been, the gone already. The word saudade is all these things and more.”
The issue also includes “Blinded,” an excerpt from Jane Saginaw’s memoir, Because the World is Round, which chronicles the author’s 1970 trip around the world with her father, brother, and mother who was wheelchair-bound from polio. In the memoir, Saginaw remembers meeting Holocaust survivors in Tel Aviv and Dallas as a young person, and grappling with how to understand their stories. Recalling an encounter with Mr. Hausman, a survivor, neighbor and shopkeeper in Tel Aviv, she writes, “I felt less like a nuisance and more like an intruder now, entering personal territory where I didn’t belong and wasn’t wanted.” Saginaw, now a student in the Ph.D. Program in Humanities, was formerly a trial attorney with Baron and Budd in Dallas, and later a regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Athenaeum Review is published twice yearly by the School of Arts and Humanities and the Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History. Featuring essays, reviews and podcasts by leading scholars in the arts and humanities, the journal is availalable online, as well as in print at local bookstores or through the UT Dallas Marketplace.