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Catherine Chatterley




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CHATTERLEY'S BOOK DISENCHANTMENT SELECTED AS FINALIST FOR NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD

by Rhonda Spivak, Jan 16, 2012

Dr. Catherine Chatterley's book, Disenchantment: George Steiner and the Meaning of Western Civilization After Auschwitz, has been selected as a Finalist for the 2011 National Jewish Book Awards in the category of Modern Jewish Thought and Experience. As the first intellectual biography of George Steiner, Disenchantment provides an invaluable contribution to literary and cultural studies, confirming his critical and intellectual legacy.
 
Steiner, who has enjoyed international acclaim as a distinguished cultural critic for many years, is the son of central European Jews. He was born in France, fled from the Nazis to New York in 1940, and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1944. Through his many books, voluminous literary criticism, and book review articles published in the New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement, and the Guardian, Steiner has played a major role in introducing the works of prominent continental writers and thinkers to readers in North America and Great Britain.

Having escaped the Nazis as a child, Steiner vowed that his work as an intellectual would attempt to understand the tragedy of the Shoah.
Disenchantment focuses on Steiner’s neglected writings on the Holocaust and antisemitism and places this work at the center of his cultural criticism.
 
"The book demonstrates how Steiner’s family history and education, as well as the historical and cultural developments that surrounded him, are central to the evolution of his dominant intellectual concerns. It is during the 1950s and 1960s, in relation to unfolding discoveries about the Nazi murder of European Jewry, that Steiner begins to study the effects of the Holocaust on language and culture and then questions the very purpose and meaning of the humanities," Chatterley told the Winnipeg Jewish Review.
 
Disenchantment is the first book by Chatterley, who is the founding director of the Canadian Institute of the Study of Antisemitism. When asked how it feels to be named a finalist in this prestigious American competition, Chatterley responded, "It's incredible really. To be a finalist in such a serious category (Modern Jewish Thought and Experience) alongside Lord Rabbi Sacks, and other finalists like Deborah Lipstadt and winners like Marion Kaplan, is a tremendous honour and I am very pleased. I hope the famous silver sticker that will now be on the cover of Disenchantment helps people discover the work of George Steiner."

Chatterley said that the book is "actually my doctoral dissertation, which I completed at The University of Chicago in 2007. The book was just published by Syracuse University Press in their series, Religion, Theology, and the Holocaust, which is edited by Steven T. Katz."

Chatterley wrote her MA Thesis on George Steiner at Concordia University in Montreal. "My advisor, Professor Frederick Krantz, gave me a collection of Steiner's essays, told me we had a lot in common intellectually, and to go read him. So, I did, and I discovered that Steiner was struggling with the challenge of Holocaust representation and the limits of language to convey the horrors of the Shoah--how does one write and speak about the unspeakable? I was having the same problem as a budding historian, increasingly surrounded by postmodern thinkers and those wanting to compare the Holocaust to all sorts of modern processes, human behaviour, and historical atrocities."

When Chatterley left Winnipeg for Montreal in 1995, her original proposal was to study the gendered Holocaust experiences of women survivors.

"But at that time I could find no support for this subject, in the university or in the Holocaust survivor community in Montreal. The specific experiences of women were too difficult to bear on top of all the trauma they were carrying as Jewish Holocaust survivors, and so these experiences were buried by the women themselves and by the field in general. In an incredible ironic twist, the first scholarly book on this subject was finally published in 2011 and it also won a National Jewish Book Award this year (Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women during the Holocaust, edited by Sonja M. Hedgepeth and Rochelle G. Saidel, Brandeis University Press)."
 
The National Jewish Book Awards, now in its 61st year, is the longest-running program of its kind in North America. Winners and finalists will be presented with their National Jewish Book Awards at a gala ceremony, open to the public, on Wednesday, March 14th at 8:00 p.m. at the Center for Jewish History, at 15 West 16th Street in New York City.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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