Scholar to discuss Holocaust and 9/11 memorials

James E. Young, an internationally known scholar of Holocaust studies and the design and role of memorials, will present a free public lecture Saturday at Indiana University Bloomington.

Young, Distinguished University Professor of English and Judaic Studies at the University of Massachusetts, will speak at 12:30 p.m. in the Frangipani Room of the Indiana Memorial Union on “The Memorial’s Vernacular Arc: Between Berlin’s Denkmal and New York City’s 9/11 Memorial.”

James E. Young

James E. Young

The lecture, sponsored by the Department of History at IU Bloomington and the Cornelius O’Brien Lecture Series, is the keynote address for the 2016 annual meeting of the Indiana Association of Historians, the theme of which is “1816 and All That: History/Memory/Commemoration.”

Young will draw on his scholarship and his experience serving on memorial commissions, including the five-member panel that selected the design for Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial and the jury for the World Trade Center Site Memorial, which was completed and dedicated in 2011.

“James Young has been both a scholar and a practitioner of what we sometimes call ‘public memory,’ the job of making sense of collective experiences in the past,” said Eric Sandweiss, history department chair. “Through his work on both Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial and New York’s 9/11 Memorial, Professor Young shows that tragic events need not be trivialized in public monuments, and that a society can learn from even its most terrible moments.”

The lecture will discuss what Young refers to as “the memorial’s arc” from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial designed by Maya Lin to the German Holocaust memorials and the national 9/11 Memorial in New York City. He wrote about this in Harvard Design Magazine:

Like other cultural and aesthetic forms in Europe and America, the monument — in both idea and practice — has undergone a radical transformation over the course of the 20th century. As intersection between public art and political memory, the monument has necessarily reflected the aesthetic and political revolutions, as well as the wider crises of representation, following all of this century’s major upheavals … The result has been a metamorphosis of the monument from the heroic, self-aggrandizing figurative icons of the late 19th century, which celebrated national ideals and triumphs, to the antiheroic, often ironic and self-effacing conceptual installations that mark the national ambivalence and uncertainty of late 20th-century postmodernism.

Young directs the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide and Memory Studies at the University of Massachusetts. He is the author of “Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust,” “The Texture of Memory” and “At Memory’s Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture” and is completing an insider’s view of the World Trade Center Memorial, titled “The Stages of Memory at Ground Zero: A Juror’s Report on the World Trade Center Site Memorial.”

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