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Reed College to strengthen study of foreign language, literature, and culture

An anonymous gift will support a chair in Jewish literature and culture studies in the Russian department.

PORTLAND, OR (December 7, 2005) – Reed College has received an anonymous gift of $135,266 to support a chair in Jewish literature and culture studies in the Russian department for two years.

The addition of a third tenure track position in the department of Russian will facilitate its efforts to teach students about the many different ethnicities and nations in Russia and the former Soviet Union. The position will focus on the literature, film, and theater of eastern and central European Jews. It will encompass literary expression, produced both in Yiddish and in the literary languages of the embedding nationality (Russian, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Serb, Croatian).

Within the Russian program, the position will teach courses on topics such as, but not limited to: Yiddish film, 1911-1939; Jew and "jewishness" in Russian modernism; images of marginality in east and central European cinema; Yiddish literature and theater in translation; and the Messianic idea in the Russian avant garde. The holder of the chair will also teach a segment of Russian language and advise senior thesis projects.

The study of Judaic materials at Reed constitutes an extremely important and growing part of the academic program. Humanities 110, the required first-year course that serves as an introduction to western humanities, includes some readings from the Hebrew Bible, Rabbinic literature, and Josephus. As a result, all Reed students are introduced to key beliefs of Judaism and selected major events in Jewish history.

"The addition of new courses in Jewish culture studies, including literary genres, film, theater, and movements, will prepare students to undertake senior thesis research in these areas, within the framework of either the Russian major or a variety of interdisciplinary majors, and to prepare for careers or professional expertise in a range of developing fields," notes Lena Lencek, professor of Russian and Humanities at Reed. "In addition, a proposed Jewish Culture Studies guest lecture series will provide a regular forum for bringing together faculty, students, and members of the off-campus community with an interest in the complex, multi-layered, poly-genetic discourse of Jewish Studies."

In addition, the college now has five faculty members from the departments of religion, German, English, history, and music who teach courses or who have research interests related to Judaic studies. The Russian department faculty members believe that a new chair in Jewish literature and culture studies will further strengthen these ties.