LIBRARIANS AND MEDIA

The Image of the Librarian in Film, Television, and literature: A Derridean Deconstruction of the stereotypes and Foucaultian analysis of why these stereotypes exist- Test Case of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, Louis Borges' "The Library of Babel", a

Description: 

This paper focuses on the image of the librarian, and the subcategory of the Jewish librarian in film, literature, and television. Of the many examples of the Jewish librarian in film and TV, we consider David Mamet's work, Homicide, the Israeli film The Matchmaker, the film Sophie's Choice, and the Israeli film, The Footnote הערת שוליים‎, translit. He'arat Shulayim), among many other test cases. We put the images of Jewish librarians in the context of the many images of librarians and libraries from the wider world from Marian the librarian in The Music Man to Citizen Cane. As examples of favorable portraits of librarians we consider classic works such as Umberto Eco's semiotic novel, The Name of the Rose (Il nome della rosa), Louis Borges' labyrinth library thesis in "The Library of Babel" (La biblioteca de Babel) , and other examples of high intellectual culture that depart from popular culture flat stereotypes, by portraying the librarian in a positive light and valuing the knowledge that libraries contribute. By the method of Derridian Deconstruction (Mal d'Archive: Une Impression Freudienne) we will show why the popular flat simplistic stereotypes in pop low culture from the Saturn commercial to Seinfeld, are often false, and through the work of Michel Foucualt (“La Bibliotheque. Fantastique") analyze why popular degrading reductionist stereotypes sometimes exist in the popular uneducated imagination. We will derive insights into the popular negative stereotypes and categories in which librarians, and Jewish librarians in particular, are often depicted and classified in pop mass culture, under conventional devalued categories, as well as those examples of high cultural films and literature that break out of the box, and present a more multi-faceted, diverse, complicated, and in depth look at the profession and practitioners as valuable contributors to the the heart of any educational institution. Sound clips are deployed throughout the presentation for educational purposes, as well as primary documents such as interviews with film buffs, film makers and film cultural critics in NYU's film studies faculty, and at Jerusalem's film Ma'ale film school. We conclude that lack of knowledge concerning what librarians really do, and preconceived notions that libraries are limited to clerical duties of checking out books, "shushing," stamping, and shelving, often contribute to the popular negative image of the librarian in the general public, ad captum vulgi. On the flip side, intellectual authors like Umberto Eco, Louis Borges, and Arthur Conan Doyle (librarians help solve detective mysteries by deciphering clues) show appreciation, respect, and acknowledge essential value of the librarians role, not only teach how to “access” knowledge [and importantly serve as “fact checkers,”] but also to take an active role in organizing, interpreting commenting upon, and creatively fostering the furtherance of interdisciplinary international research in the knowledge revolutions we are living through in the digital Humanities, recognizing (anagoresis) that librarians are even capable of solving murder detective mysteries, and unlocking esoteric mysteries beyond and beyond, as the factotum Janus gatekeepers, giving meaning and redemption in the journey of life.

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Their Love of Children

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Ellen’s presentation will be about American Jewish children’s book authors and illustrators who have had a lasting impact on children’s literature. These authors have written books that are considered classics, read by millions of children, and published in numerous languages. The focus will be on the authors Ezra Jack Keats and Margaret and H. A. Rey. Other authors mentioned will be Maurice Sendak and Margot Zemach. Ellen will conclude her presentation with suggestions for programs of Jewish interest based on the life of these authors.

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My Life by Bertha Kalich, Found in Translation

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The memoirs of Bertha Kalich (1874‐1939) constitute an important primary source for research in Jewish studies, gender studies, and theater history. Bertha Kalich was among the first actresses to publish her memoirs in Yiddish, serialized in the newspaper “Der Tog” in 1925 under the title, “Mayn Lebn” (My Life) and microfilmed by The New York Public Library. Amanda Seigel has translated Kalich’s memoirs and subsequently published excerpts from the translation, revealing a treasure trove of information and insights. From her childhood in Lemberg (today Lviv, Ukraine), to her ascent on the early Yiddish stage in Eastern Europe and then America, to her crossover success in English, Kalich describes key moments and personalities in the early Yiddish theater and the struggles she faced as a Jewish woman. Join us for an illustrated exploration of her incredible life, now accessible for reading and study in English.

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