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Ideology and Its Ethics: Maria Dąbrowska’s Jewish (and Polish) Problem

October 4, 2010 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Rachel Brenner wearing a white turtle neck in front of book shelves full of blue books

Monday Seminar:

Rachel Feldhay Brenner

Senior Fellow (2008-2013)

Hebrew Studies, UW-Madison


The diaries of Maria Dąbrowska (1889-1965), a prominent Polish writer and socialist left a troubling testimony of her perception of the Polish Jews, especially in the time of the Holocaust. Her insensitivity to the Jewish extermination needs to be understood in the context of her prewar ambivalent attitude toward the Jews, which reflected the writer-diarist’s ideological conflict. The incompatibility of the ideologies of nationalist particularity and universal humanism informed an ethics whose capacity for self-deception made possible the denial of empathy.


Rachel Feldhay Brenner is Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature in the Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies, and Max and Frieda Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies. Her research focuses on Jewish Diaspora Literature, Israeli literature, and on the representations of the Holocaust in literature and in autobiographical writings. She is the author of Assimilation and Assertion: The Response to the Holocaust in Mordecai Richler’s Writing (1989), and A.M. Klein, The Father of Canadian Jewish Literature: Essays in the Poetics of Humanistic Passion (1990), which won the prize of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto Literary Scholarship Award, Writing as Resistance: Four Women Confronting the Holocaust: Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Anne Frank, and Etty Hillesum (1997), which was translated into Spanish, Inextricably Bonded: Israeli Jewish and Arab Writers Re-Visioning Culture (2003), and The Freedom to Write: The Woman-Artist and the World in Ruth Almog’s Fiction (2008) [in Hebrew]. Brenner (Hebrew University (B.A), Tel Aviv University (M.A.) York University, Toronto (Ph.D)) has received Canada Research Fellowship (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada), Skirball Visiting Fellowship, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, NEH Fellowship, Research Award, Hadassah International Research Institute on Jewish Women, Brandeis University, the George Mosse Faculty Exchange Award to Hebrew University, Sosland Family Fellowship, the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Museum.


October 4, 2010
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States