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As a teenager, he helped provide safe passage to artists and intellectuals out of Vichy France. He went on to teach literature at Bard College for six decades, writes Alex Vadukul for the New York Times. “Clad in his familiar tweed jacket, he taught French, German and Russian classics and was known for popular courses like 10 Plays That Shook The World. But on Bard’s leafy campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., Mr. Rosenberg also represented a remarkable living link to Holocaust history.”
Justus Rosenberg’s remarkable life has been remembered in several publications and news outlets around the world including the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jerusalem Post, National Public Radio, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Deutsche Welle, and Kirkus Reviews among others.
Associate Professor of Literature Alys Moody and coeditor Stephen J. Ross have been awarded the 2020 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize for an Edition, Anthology, or Essay Collection for their book Global Modernists on Modernism: An Anthology (Bloomsbury).
Awarding the prize, the Modernist Studies Association writes:
Alys Moody and Stephen J. Ross’s Global Modernists on Modernism is a groundbreaking anthology that will have an immeasurable impact. It introduces carefully selected, edited, and annotated texts from a breathtakingly broad range of primary sources that will be integral to future scholarship and teaching. This is an anthology that is aware of how important the anthology has been to modernism, or as they put it, how “this process of assemblage and collection, of triage and sorting, has been central to the history of modernism’s reception.” In this way the volume, both in its editorial choices and its expert critical essays, offers a radical shift away from the discipline’s preoccupation with defining modernism, and instead aims to present an archive from which we might begin to understand the ways in which modernism has been differently understood around the world. As such it also seeks to “go beyond merely gesturing to the existence of modernists around the world, to defend the value of ‘global modernism’ as a critical hermeneutic.” The anthology begins with the brilliant and provocative “Ten Theses on Global Modernism”, providing a thematic “Alternate Table of Contents” with categories ranging from “Political and Social Formations” to “Artistic Movements and Styles” and “Institutions and Social Conditions of the Field.” In addition to drawing on Moody and Ross’s expertise, the volume also features vital and enlightening contributions of invited scholars as section editors and translators. Global Modernists on Modernism is the result of immense scholarship and will prove a model for future editions; for modernist literary studies it will be no less than indispensable, deftly transforming considerations of the literary, historical, and geographical scope of modernism.
“Etel Adnan’s life has been marked by constant movement: across oceans and continents, between languages, both literal and artistic . . . A creative polyglot, she has produced paintings, drawings, tapestries, multiple volumes of poetry and essays, and Sitt Marie-Rose (1977), one of the most important novels about the Lebanese civil war, in a career spanning over six decades. Light’s New Measure borrows its title from a poem in the 2012 collection Sea and Fog, gesturing to the dialogue between Adnan’s artwork and her poetry. Indeed, it would be impossible to think about her art practice as separate from her literary pursuits, especially since a persistent struggle with language(s) frames her experience of both the literary and visual,” writes Assistant Professor of Arabic Dina Ramadan in a review of the artist’s first major New York museum show. Ramadan describes that “Adnan’s paintings feel immediate in their energy, exploding onto the canvas in a single sitting, thick layers of paint applied directly from the tube. Much like her poetry, they are emotive and experiential, studies of the potential of color and its emotional agency, explorations of its ability to move past the limitations of meaning,” The exhibition Light’s New Measure, which spans Adnan’s prolific career, is on view at the Guggenheim Museum from October 8, 2021 through January 10, 2022.
“Author Lucy Sante is at an interesting point in her life, looking backward and forward simultaneously,” writes Bob Krasner for the Villager. “With the release of her latest book, a collection of essays entitled Maybe the People Would Be the Times, she has gathered together pieces that form a kind of memoir—even in the fiction that weaves in and out of the examinations of music, art, tabloids, photography and her life in the East Village many years ago. Between the creation of this book and its actual publication, Sante has entered a new phase of her life [...] In her mid-60’s, Sante has recently come out as transgender, changed her name and is happily living her life with a new set of pronouns.” Lucy Sante is visiting professor of writing and photography at Bard College. She has been a member of the faculty since 1999.
Justus Rosenberg, Professor Emeritus of Languages & Literature and Visiting Professor of Literature, died at home in Annandale on October 30, 2021, having celebrated his 100th birthday on January 23, 2021.
Born to a Jewish family in Danzig (Gdańsk), Poland, he was sent to study in France by parents fearful of, as his father remarked, the “evil wind” of Nazism. Once the Nazis occupied Paris, Justus had to leave the Sorbonne, and, set adrift, was forced to fend for himself. The blond “Aryan-looking” young man, barely twenty years of age, was fluent in German, Yiddish, Polish, Russian and French; his love of languages saved his life, and, later, as a scholar of translation, inspired his vocation.
Justus made his way to Marseille and the Emergency Rescue Committee, led by American journalist and fervent anti-Nazi Varian Fry. Working as a courier, delivering coded messages and intercepting communications across enemy lines, Justus was soon escorting well-known émigré writers and intellectuals, among them Heinrich Mann Franz Werfel and many others, through the treacherous Pyrenees to safety in Spain.
For his heroic service (which included many near misses and serious wounds) later in the war in aid of the U.S. Army, Justus received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and in 2017, the French ambassador to the United States decorated him as a Commandeur in the Légion d’Honneur, one of France’s highest distinctions.
After a number of stateless years, Justus emigrated to the United States in 1946. After receiving a Ph.D., Justus arrived at Bard in 1962, where he taught European literature and many languages to generations of Bard students. Professor and distinguished poet Robert Kelly, in his eulogy of Justus, speaks of the “humble heroics of making sure that today’s students do not lose sight of, or lose faith in, the great humanistic structure of European civilization.” We note as well that Justus also taught courses in the literature of India, China and various countries in Africa.
In January 2020, Justus published The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground: A Memoir. “Justus was one of the last witnesses of the Holocaust,” writes President Leon Botstein in his eulogy of our beloved colleague. “His death, after a long and productive life is a call to honor his long service—his contributions as a teacher and writer—by resolving to remember, more than ever before, the events of history he was part of and the courage and commitments to freedom, tolerance, justice, learning, and respect for all human life he displayed.”
With the devoted care of his wife, Karin, Justus stayed active until almost the very end—planning courses, excited as always by the prospect of awakening Bard students to the riches of great works by revered authors, and the humane values embedded in major artistic achievement.
Trim, dapper, an avid (and very competitive!) tennis player, Justus was both worldly and modest. In his memoir he asks, “So how do we explain the fact that this child of Jewish parents in Danzig survived Hitler and concentration camps, bullet wounds and land-mine blasts, and then found his way from those stateless, uncertain years in war-torn Europe to this long and purposeful life in America?” Luck, he says, most certainly had something to do with it. Yet, “Time and time again,” he tells us, “there was what I call ‘a confluence of circumstances’ that presented me with a window of opportunity, or a moment to be seized. At each juncture, a combination of factors enabled me to seize that moment or slip through that window. That’s my best explanation for how I survived.”
That he did so has been an inestimable gift to all of us at Bard. In the spirit of the Jewish tradition in which he was raised, “May his memory be a blessing.”
* * *
Elizabeth Frank with Vikramaditya Ha Joshi (author of Parfois le hasard fait bien les choses: The Biography of Justus Rosenberg, a senior project in the Division of Languages & Literature submitted in May 2018 and winner of the John Bard Scholars Prize)
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Justus Rosenberg Memorial Fund at Bard College, whose objective is to create an endowed chair in comparative literature in his name at the College.
By Sophie Kautenburger ’23
Where can studying ancient languages lead? Great places: just ask three Bard Classics majors who spent the summer of 2021 pursuing their academic passions at Harvard University and the University of Chicago. Senior Em Setzer ’22 completed a paid internship at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies (CHS), a research facility, library, and cultural center based in Washington, DC that attracts scholars, students, and artists from all over the world. Setzer contributed to The Open Greek and Latin Project, an international collaboration committed to creating a free digital corpus of Greek and Latin texts. Setzer managed a team of about 20 volunteers who edited the data output of digitized Greek texts for two major online platforms: the First Thousand Years of Greek Project and the Perseus Digital Library. Setzer’s work added new material to these open source projects, which significantly contribute to the worldwide accessibility of the study of ancient Greece and Rome.
Bard Classics senior Isabella Spagnuolo ’22 won a fully funded internship at the University of Chicago in the Leadership Alliance’s 2021 Summer Research Early Identification Program (SR-EIP). SR-EIP is a highly selective summer research experience designed for undergraduates interested in pursuing a PhD. During the nine-week program, Spagnuolo was mentored by Michèle Lowrie (Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Classics at the University of Chicago); took courses in academic skills and professional development; and developed an independent research project. Spagnuolo used the summer to explore echoes of dance in Horace’s Odes, a collection of Roman poetry composed in the first century BCE. Her work allowed her to combine her expertise in Classics with her own experience as an accomplished dancer; she plans to continue this research in her Senior Project at Bard.
Sophomore Jade Dinkins ’24 was awarded a scholarship to study at Harvard Summer School, the oldest academic summer program in the United States. In seven short weeks, she learned ancient Greek from scratch and translated adaptations of works by Euripides, Lysias, Herodotus, and Aristophanes. The experience was grueling but rewarding. “I found all of the pieces which I read to be equally as engaging as they were academically challenging,” Dinkins recounted, “which made it a true treat to translate every single one of them. Both of my professors brought so much enthusiasm to each lesson as well, and that allowed me to wake up every morning feeling eager to learn as much ancient Greek as I possibly could that day. They explained beautifully the language’s major influence on the social, cultural, and intellectual history of the West, offering a well-rounded perspective on the history of the language, which is something that I really appreciate when learning something new.” Dinkins successfully completed her summer scholarship studies in time for the start of Bard’s fall semester, which sees her reading Homer in Bard’s intermediate ancient Greek class.
“These fantastic achievements are a testament to our students’ talents and hard work,” said Lauren Curtis, associate professor of Classics and director of the Classical Studies Program. “We are so proud of them! All these different summer projects and internships, from language study to leadership training and research, show how many exciting opportunities the study of the Ancient Greek and Roman worlds can open up.”
Professor Emeritus of Languages and Literature and Visiting Professor of Literature Justus Rosenberg passed away, surrounded by family, on Saturday, October 30, 2021 at the age of 100.
In a letter to the Bard community, President Leon Botstein memorialized Rosenberg’s life:
Justus was one of the last witnesses of the Holocaust. As a member of the French Resistance he was also a hero in the fight against fascism. His death, after a long and productive life is a call to honor his long service—his contributions as a teacher and writer—by resolving to remember, more than ever before, the events of history he was part of and the courage and commitments to freedom, tolerance, justice, learning, and respect for all human life he displayed. All of us at Bard owe him a debt of gratitude for his many years of teaching, his friendship, and the eloquent writings he penned.
Justus Rosenberg was born to a Jewish family in Danzig (present-day Gdańsk, Poland) in 1921. He was a legendary teacher who started teaching at Bard in 1962. Although he retired formally in 1992, he accepted a post-retirement appointment to rejoin the faculty offered to him by Stuart Levine, who was then Dean of the College. In 2020, he published The Art of Resistance: My Four Years in the French Underground: A Memoir. This book recounts his service to the French Resistance during World War II. Justus not only survived the war, unlike many in his family, but by joining the fight against Nazis he was doubly at risk as a Jew and as a member of the Resistance. For his wartime service, Justus received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart and in 2017 the French ambassador to the United States personally made Rosenberg a Commandeur in the Légion d’Honneur, among France’s highest decorations, for his heroism during World War II.
Justus emigrated to the United States. After finishing his PhD, he chose a career in undergraduate teaching, first at Swarthmore, and then at Bard. He taught literature and many languages, notably French, German, Russian, Yiddish, and, from time to time, even Polish. He was a loyal friend to Peter Sourian, and until not too long ago, an avid player of tennis, particularly with the late Jean French, Professor of Art History. In recent decades, Justus was very active promoting causes dedicated to tolerance and the fight against prejudice and hate.
Students who were fortunate enough to take his classes had the rare opportunity to study with a scholar who was also a witness to history. The Nazi genocide of European Jewry has receded from memory and become a more distant object of history. Bard students, however, had the opportunity to be in the presence of an individual who could testify to what happened.The denial of the truth of the persecution and annihilation of European Jewry has, astonishingly, persisted. Justus Rosenberg survived and witnessed the unimaginable. Yet he tirelessly and eloquently demonstrated reasons for hope. Despite suffering and loss, Justus sustained an unrelenting commitment to literature, the arts, philosophy, the traditions of science, and the making of art; for him they revealed the possibilities of human renewal shared by all and transcended the differences among us. For Justus, learning and study were instruments of redemption, remembrance, and reconciliation. He possessed a magnetic capacity to inspire the love of learning.
It was a miracle that Justus fulfilled the well-known birthday greeting of the nation of his birth that calls for "100 years" of life. Justus reached that milestone, against all odds. In Poland, the country of his birth, just under 3 million Jews, nearly 90 percent of all Polish Jews, were murdered between 1939 and 1945.
A graveside funeral was held on Sunday, October 31 at the Bard College Cemetery with a reception at the President's House following the ceremony. A Shiva is taking place during the week. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Justus Rosenberg Memorial Fund at Bard College, whose objective is to create an endowed chair in comparative literature in his name at the College.
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