Jewish Studies Lecture: “Strange Fruit: Bialik and Kishinev 1903”

by CJS


Marcus Moseley, Associate Professor of Hebrew and Yiddish Literature, Northwestern University

“Strange Fruit: Bialik and Kishinev 1903”

This lecture explores an unnoticed coincidence in the life of poet Hayim Bialik (1873-1934), perhaps best known for his epic poem “In the City of Slaughter,” a response to the Kishinev pogroms. In 1903–the same year he composed “In the City of Slaughter”
–Bialik made his first public autobiographical statement in a letter to Yosef Klausner, who was working on Bialik’s biography at the time. Bialik’s letter is generally seen as an essential matrix for the poet’s later autobiographical explorations and is extensively quoted. The themes encountered within both “”Ir ha haharega” and “Di shekhite shtot”, the poet’s canonical responses to Kishinev, resonate within the autobiographical letter to reveal a complete psycho-historical drama.  Finally, this talk considers the extraordinary parallels between “Strange Fruit”, first sung by Billie Holiday, and the circumstances of its composition by Jew of Eastern-European descent. In sum, this lecture should be appealing to a wide range of audiences: those interested in Jewish Studies, Russian History, and literature–not to mention those who enjoy looking at confluences between literary studies and popular culture.

Event Details

Thursday, February 7, 4:00 p.m.
Union South (TITU)
1308 Dayton Street, Madison

Sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies with support from the University Lectures Committee.

About the Speaker

Marcus Moseley received his MA at the University of Edinburgh Scotland, and his D.Phil at the University of Oxford. He has taught Hebrew and Yiddish literature at Harvard University and the University of Oxford. He is currently associate professor of Hebrew and Yiddish Literature at Northwestern University. He is the author of Being for Myself Alone: Origins of Jewish Autobiography (Stanford University Press 2006).