Leeds Literary Festival

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Milim Spring 2019

Professor Griselda Pollock

‘With all her radiance, she was surrounded by a darkness that perplexed me.’ Marilyn Monroe in Arthur Miller’s Plays

As part of her feminist cultural analysis of the work and image of Marilyn Monroe, Griselda Pollock

Encountered the issue of Marilyn’s Men. Her second husband, Joe di Maggio was an all-American athlete—a Catholic Sicilian immigrant Californian and national baseball hero—while her third husband was at the opposite end of the cultural spectrum of America during the 1950s. Also, a child of immigrants, Arthur Miller was a New Yorker, Jewish and a political left-wing writer. Monroe converted to Judaism and remained close to Miller’s family after their divorce and identified as Jewish thereafter. Converging on the writing and enacting of narratives of troubled and tragic characters in everyday America, Miller and Monroe made one film together, The Misfits (1961).   After 1962, Miller wrote two plays After the Fall (1964 )and Finishing the Picture (2004) that posthumously explored their shattered relationship, creating, in addition to The Misfits, three images of, or personae for his former wife. In this talk, Griselda will probe Miller’s polarized and almost vicious representations of the offscreen ‘Marilyn Monroe’. They become a lens through which to draw a counter-portrait of her subjectivity, identifying the challenge this creative, white working-class woman presented to the men of her generation and society. What was the darkness within the radiance that Miller had to exorcize in his troubling plays? How else can we read Monroe because she inspired these extraordinary writings by the major tragedian of mid-twentieth century American literature whose theme was always masculinity in crisis. I shall also compare Miller’s indirect portraits of Marilyn Monroe to his sympathetic treatment of the ‘hysterical’ character Sylvia Gelburg in his play about Pogromnacht (1938), Broken Glass (1994). This play stages the encounter of a thoughtful woman and a sensitive doctor and locates the source of the woman’s paralysing psychic distress in not only the horror of history but the crisis of masculinity. Can Monroe, viewed through her men, also become a symptom of that crisis and of its post-traumatic history?

 

Griselda Pollock is Professor of Social & Critical Histories of Art and
director, of the Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory & History (CentreCATH)  at the University of Leeds. In 2020 She became Laureate of the Holberg Prize for Arts and Humanities

 


Adam Sutcliffe

‘What Are Jews For? A History of the Idea of Jewish Chosenness'

What is the purpose of Jews in the world? The Bible singles out the Jews as God’s ‘chosen people’, but the significance of this special has been understood in many different ways over the centuries, both by Jews and by non-Jews. The idea that the Jews have a special role in human history has often caused considerable unease, but it also been a persistent presence in almost all domains of modern thought.  In this session Adam Sutcliffe will explore the history of ’the Jewish Purpose Question’ from biblical times to the present,  which he discusses in his new book What Are Jews For? History, Peoplehood and Purpose (Princeton University Press, 2020).
Adam Sutcliffe is Professor of European History at King’s College London.  He has published widely on Jewish history, the history of European thought and on history and memory. HIs earlier books include Judaism and Enlightenment (2003); Philosemitism in History (2011); and History, Memory and Public Life: The Past in the Present (2018).


 

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