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Lafayette’s Hillel Society will present a lecture by Hana Wirth-Nesher, the Samuel L. and Perry Haber Chair on the Study of the Jewish Experience in the United States at Tel-Aviv University, at 4:10 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 17, in the Interfaith Chapel of Lafayette’s Hogg Hall.

Wirth-Nesher will speak on “Mary Antin’s Journey Through ‘The Promised Land.’” The event, co-sponsored by the Department of English, is free and open to the public. An informal dinner of Middle Eastern foods and pizza will follow.

Wirth-Nesher, whose husband is Israeli, was a tenured member of Lafayette’s English faculty for 10 years in the late 1970s and 1980s before becoming head of the English department at Tel-Aviv University.

“Hana has traveled and lectured all over the world,” says Hillel director Robert I. Weiner, professor of history and Jewish chaplain.”She is quite well known in her field.”

The lecture will explore Mary Antin’s The Promised Land, one of the most famous autobiographies ever written by an immigrant to the United States, which celebrated as a model of assimilation. A close look at the work reveals that Antin was preoccupied with language acquisition, speech, accent, and dialect, and that she hoped, through writing, to “pass” as an American. Her notions of passing and race were products of the nativism of her time. The Promised Land is a fascinating document as ethnic literature that divides its audience, that provides glossaries and explanations, and that exposes some of the anxieties of Jewish immigrants to the United States during the early years of the twentieth century.

Wirth-Nesher is the author or editor of numerous books on Jewish literature including the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Jewish American Literature. She is also the author of many essays in American, British, and Jewish Literature, on the works of Dickens, Twain, Woolf, Henry James, James Joyce, Naipaul, Kafka, Amos Oz, Isaac Beshevis Singer, Henry Roth, and others. Wirth-Nesher is currently working on a book entitled Call it English: The Languages of Jewish American Writing.

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