Literary Responses to Mass Violence: Participant Biographies

Brandeis University
September 16-18, 2003
Hassenfeld Conference Center

Taha Muhammad Ali
Taha Muhammad Ali is one of the leading poets on the contemporary Palestinian literary scene. Born in 1931 in the Galilee village of Saffuriya, he fled to Lebanon with most of the inhabitants of his village during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. A year later he slipped across the border with his family and found his village destroyed. He then settled in Nazareth, where he has lived ever since. Audiences worldwide have been powerfully moved by Taha Muhammad Ali's poems of political complexity and humanity. Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story is the poet's first collection to appear in English.

Eric Cheyfitz
Eric Cheyfitz is the Goldwin Smith Professor of English at Cornell University, where he also teaches in the American Indian Program and in the Law School. His work in federal Indian law has included consulting with Native communities in the Southwest. He has been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, the Society for the Humanities at Cornell, and the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation. Cheyfitz’s book, The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from “The Tempest” to Tarzan, addresses questions of language and power in the history of European/Native American conflict. He serves on the editorial board of the journal American Literature, and as an editor of the University of Pennsylvania’s book series in American studies, Rethinking the Americas. He is currently editing The Columbia History of Native American Literatures of the United States, 1945-2000.

Boris Diop
Boubacar Boris Diop was born in 1946 in Dakar, Senegal, where he attended a French school. Before completing his secondary education, he described his experiences with racism in a novel which was never published. Diop went to Kigali, Rwanda for two months in 1998 to take part in the “Rwanda: écrire par devoir de mémoire” project along with other artists. Diop’s most recent novel, Murambi, is based on accounts by survivors of the Tutsi genocide in 1994, when almost half a million people were killed. Originally published in French, Murambi is presently being translated into English. Diop lives in Dakar and has been writing for Neue Zürcher Zeitung for several years.

Eugene Goodheart
Eugene Goodheart recently retired as the Edytha Macy Gross Professor of Humanities after almost 30 years at Brandeis University. He is the author of over 300 articles and reviews. Goodheart has published numerous books including The Reign of Ideology and Does Literary Studies Have a Future? In 2001 he published his memoirs, Confessions of a Secular Jew.

Jane Hale
Jane Hale has taught French, humanities, and comparative literature as a professor at Brandeis for 18 years. Previously, she worked as a high school English teacher with the Peace Corps in Chad, a second grade teacher in rural North Carolina, and at many odd jobs in equally odd places. Hale travels frequently to Senegal, where, as a Fulbright Senior Scholar, she met Boris Diop in 1994.

David Kazanjian
David Kazanjian is associate professor of English at Queens College and associate director of women's studies at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. His recent publications include: The Colonizing Trick: National Culture and Imperial Citizenship in Early America (University of Minnesota Press, 2003), and Loss: The Politics of Mourning, co-edited with David L. Eng (University of California Press, 2003). He has also published in New Formations, American Literature, New Centennial Review, Radical Philosophy Review, Armenian Review, Alternation, and Qui Parle.

Antjie Krog
Anna Elizabeth Krog was born in 1952 on a farm in the Freestate, South Africa. She has published ten volumes of poetry, two volumes of verse for children, a short novel published by Heinemann and a book, Country of my Skull, an account of her reporting for SABC radio on the work of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Krog has recently translated Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom into Afrikaans. Krog has conducted workshops for the South African Congress of Writers in rural areas and worked closely with the Poetry School at Bloemfontein as well as the Poetry Laboratory at the University of Stellenbosch under the guidance of poet DJ Opperman.

Christopher Lydon
Christopher Lydon is the current host of the webcast on He has been a distinctive voice in print, television and radio journalism for more than 30 years. A national political correspondent for the New York Times, he covered the McGovern, Humphrey, Reagan and Carter presidential campaigns in the 1970s. For nearly 15 years he was the host of "The Ten O'Clock News" on WGBH, Channel 2, public television. In 1994 with producer Mary McGrath he inaugurated "The Connection" on WBUR, public radio in Boston. "The Connection" was carried by National Public Radio and more than 75 public stations around the country

Ilana Rosen, Ben Gurion University
Ilana Rosen, born 1962 in Jerusalem, is a senior lecturer in the department of Hebrew literature at Ben Gurion University. She is a scholar of Jewish oral lore from Central and Eastern Europe, particularly of Jewish memories of the inter-war period and the Holocaust. Rosen earned a BA and MA in English Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a PhD in the Folklore Program of the Hebrew Literature Department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her major publications include: There once was... The Oral Tradition of the Jews of Carpatho-Russia, which focuses on the inter-war period and its lore; Sister in Sorrow – a Journey to the Life Histories of Female Holocaust Survivors from Hungary; In Auschwitz We Blew the Shofar – Carpatho-Russian Jews Remember the Holocaust; and Hungarian Jewish Women Remember the Holocaust – An Anthology of Life Histories, a selection of previously unpublished documented life histories.

Mark Sanders
Mark Sanders is Assistant Professor of English and American Literature at Brandeis University. He is the author of Complicities: The Intellectual and Apartheid (Duke University Press, 2002), as well as numerous essays on South African literature and intellectual history. A recipient of the ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp research fellowship, he is currently writing a book on the testimony of witnesses before South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Yigal Schwartz
Yigal Schwartz was born in Ramat Gan, Israel to Hungarian emigrant parents who were Holocaust survivors. He acquired his formal academic training at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Schwartz's research examines different areas of contemporary Hebrew literature over the past 150 years. In the course of his academic career, he has won many awards of distinction from various institutions, among them the Dov Sadan Award, the Academia Award in Hebrew Language and the Alon Award Scholarship. He has lectured at many symposia in Israel and throughout the world, and served as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan and Harvard University. Schwartz is the author of many articles and books on modern Hebrew literature including the most recent Aharon Appelfeld: From Individual Lament to Tribal Eternity (Brandeis University Press, 2001). He has edited more than 100 books by well known authors, as well as young and promising Israeli writers. Schwartz directs Heksherim—the Research Center for Jewish and Israeli Literature and Culture at Ben Gurion University.

Peter Dale Scott
Peter Dale Scott is a former Canadian diplomat and professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. Born in Montreal in 1929, he is a poet, writer and researcher. His poetry includes the three volumes of his trilogy Seculum: Coming to Jakarta (1988), Listening to the Candle (1992), and Minding the Darkness (2000). His prose works include Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1996) and Drugs, Oil and War (2003). In 2002 he received the Lannan Poetry Award. His website is

Faith Smith
Faith Smith is associate professor of English and American Literature, focusing on the Anglophone Caribbean.

Leigh Swigart
Leigh Swigart, associate director of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life, manages the development of seminars for professionals, including the Brandeis Seminars in Humanities and the Professions and the Brandeis Institute for International Judges. A cultural anthropologist by training, her academic work and publications have focused on language use in post-colonial Africa and on the role of community associations in the lives of African immigrants in the United States. Her experience in international education includes a tenure as director of the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal, and she has served as the assistant director of the African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Swigart holds a Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Rachel Talshir
Rachel Talshir was born in Israel in 1957 to Holocaust survivors and grew up in Beersheba. She completed her military service as a reporter for the IDF radio station. She earned her BA in Psychology and her MA in Literature and worked as a reporter and editor for Israel’s Ha`aretz, Ha`ir and Ma`ariv newspapers. Talshir has published three books to critical acclaim, including her two latest novels: Love Macht Frei and Meeting on the Brink of the Evening. She currently lives in Tel Aviv.