Primo Levi and the Holocaust: This Side of Good and Evil with Dr. Kristin Stasiowski

Primo Levi and the Holocaust: This Side of Good and Evil with Dr. Kristin Stasiowski


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“Consider, if this is a man…” begins Primo Levi’s memoir of survival in Auschwitz, If This Is a Man. This seminar will examine the central ideas and main themes of Levi’s book as he struggles to understand human dignity in the face of the 20th century’s darkest moments.

“No human experience is without meaning or unworthy of analysis…” writes Italian Jewish author Primo Levi in his well-known memoir of survival in Auschwitz, If This Is a Man (Se Questo è un Uomo). “It is neither easy nor agreeable to dredge this abyss of viciousness, and yet I think it must be done, because what could be perpetrated yesterday could be attempted again tomorrow…”

Led by an expert in Italian literature and culture, Kristin Stasiowski, Ph.D., this interactive seminar will introduce participants to Primo Levi and If This Is a Man through an in-depth discussion of this detailed and moving account of the time he spent as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps. Levi’s writing invites readers to act not as mere passive observers to his tales, but rather to become witnesses to the experiences he shares. In this way, If This is a Man is much more than a memoir; it addresses philosophical and moral ideas relative to human dignity and finding humanity even in the most horrific and terrifying circumstances. In addition, we will discuss Levi’s intertextual allusions to Dante’s Inferno, and Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner to allow participants an opportunity to meditate on the way that he uses literature and art to make meaning of circumstances that are beyond his ability to comprehend on a purely intellectual level.

Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the literary importance of Primo Levi and the power of language to address, represent, and memorialize this period of the 20th century.

Kristin Stasiowski, Ph.D. is the Assistant Dean of International Programs and Education Abroad for the College of Arts and Sciences and is also an Assistant Professor of Italian Language and Literature in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Kent State University. She received her Ph.D from Yale University in Italian Language and Literature and has taught Italian language, literature, cinema, history and culture in both the United States and Florence, Italy prior to arriving at Kent State. Her current research is on Italian author Clemente Rebora.

This conversation is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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