Past Features

March 27, 2006 (Vol. 3, No. 5)

English Professor to Give Talk April 5 on Moving Beyond Inherited Hatred

Sondra Perl
Sondra Perl
Join Professor Sondra Perl (English) for a special reading and discussion of her latest book, On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I was Taught to Hate, on Wednesday, April 5, from 3:30-5 p.m. in Room 335 of Davis Hall. Sponsored by the Office of the Provost, this talk is free and open to the public.

Professor Perl recently completed a lecture series, "Moving Beyond Inherited Hatred," which took her from New York to Austria and then back to the States. Based on her book, the lectures were intended to broaden the dialogue between victims and perpetrators of atrocities, and their families.

The book chronicles her journey, as an educator and Jewish woman, into the land she associates with the rise of Hitler and events leading to the Holocaust. In 1996, she was invited to travel to Austria to teach English to Austrian teachers. Forced to confront and come to terms with her own prejudices, Professor Perl was inspired to begin a dialogue with her students, which eventually led to the idea for the book and the tour.

"The tour felt important emotionally and intellectually," explains Professor Perl, "and it felt especially important to be able to tell this story in the place where it happened." She found that while American audiences were more willing to engage in dialogue following the lecture, the Austrian audiences were less willing, that is, until someone stepped forward to break the silence.

"When they saw that I was not judging them, or asking them to relive their grandparent's actions, and that I was essentially asking them to search their feelings, they were more willing to open up," says Professor Perl.

Professor Perl is the recipient of Lehman's 2005 Excellence in Research, Scholarship and Creative Works Award in the Division of Arts and Humanities. In 1996, the Carnegie Foundation named her New York State Teacher of the Year. An expert on the teaching of writing, she is the author of Felt Sense: Writing with the Body and coauthor of Through Teachers' Eyes: Portraits of Writing Teachers at Work and Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction.