English Literature Professor Manfred Weidhorn Reflects on 52 Year Career at Yeshiva University
Since 1963, Yeshiva University students looking for an engaging encounter with English literature have been able to find courses taught by Dr. Manfred Weidhorn, the Abraham and Irene Guterman Chair in English Literature and professor emeritus of English, on the roster.
An immigrant from Vienna who earned his PhD in English at Columbia University, Weidhorn is a prolific scholar and writer whose works include a dozen non-fiction books and over a hundreds essays on Shakespeare, Milton, Winston Churchill, Galileo, literary themes, cultural history, and the relationship between religion and science, in addition to young adult biographies of Napoleon, Robert E. Lee, and Jackie Robinson. At Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women, he has taught classes on topics that range from the Russian short novel to the Scientific Revolution and everything in between, encouraging students to approach each topic in new and sometimes unconventional ways.
October 28, 2010 Issue
The following talk was given at the opening of a conference at Harvard on October 1 to discuss the possibility of creating a National Digital Library.
The purpose of this meeting is to discuss a question of vital importance to the cultural life of our country: Can we create a National Digital Library? That is, a comprehensive library of digitized books that will be easily accessible to the general public. Simple as it sounds, the question is extraordinarily complex. It involves issues that concern the nature of the library to be built, the technological difficulties of designing it, the legal obstacles to getting it off the ground, the financial costs of constructing and maintaining it, and the political problems of mobilizing support for it.
Despite the complexities, the fundamental idea of a National Digital Library (or NDL) is, at its core, straightforward. The NDL would make the cultural patrimony of this country freely available to all of its citizens. It would be the digital equivalent of the Library of Congress, but instead of being confined to Capitol Hill, it would exist everywhere, bringing millions of books and other digitized material within clicking distance of public libraries, high schools, junior colleges, universities, retirement communities, and any person with access to the Internet.
The ambition behind this project goes back to the founding of this country. Thomas Jefferson formulated it succinctly: “Knowledge is the common property of mankind.” He was right—in principle. But in practice, most of humanity has been cut off from the accumulated wisdom of the ages. In Jefferson’s day, only a tiny elite had access to the world of learning. Today, thanks to the Internet, we can open up that world to all of our fellow citizens. We have the technical means to make Jefferson’s dream come true, but do we have the will? Read more…http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/28/can-we-create-national-digital-library/
Walter Benjamin in Paris. Image © Gisèle Freund
Welcome to The Long(ish) Read: a new AD feature which uncovers texts written by notable essayists which resonate with contemporary architecture, interior architecture, urbanism or landscape design. In this essay, written in 1931, Walter Benjamin narrates the process of unpacking his library. All in boxes, he takes the reader through elements of his book collection: the memories attached to them, the importance he placed on the act of ‘collecting’ and the process of accumulation, and how objects like books inhabit a space.
Walter Benjamin in brief
Born in Germany in 1892, Benjamin was known as a ‘man of letters’. Having been educated in Switzerland he had a short career in the lead up to the Second World War, which saw him carve a niche as a literary critic. In the 1930s he turned to Marxism, partly due to the influence of Bertolt Brecht and partly due to the rise of extreme right-wing politics in Europe. He spent much of his professional life in Paris, where he wrote this essay. Benjamin died in 1940 having committed suicide at the French–Spanish border while attempting to escape the Nazis. Read more...
What can we do to make the case for the humanities? Unlike the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), they do not—on the surface—contribute to the national defense. It is difficult to measure, precisely, their effect on the GDP, or our employment rates, or the stock market.
And yet, we know in our bones that secular humanism is one of the greatest sources of strength we possess as a nation, and that we must protect the humanities if we are to retain that strength in the century ahead.
I do not exactly hail from the center of the humanities. I’m an economist, with a specialization in health and economic development. When you ask economists to weigh in on an issue, the chances are good that we will ultimately get around to a basic question: “Is it worth it?” Support for the humanities is more than worth it. It is essential. Read more…