Possessed by the Traumatic Past: Dybbuks and Postmemory in Modern Jewish Cultures
26 October 2023, 4:30 pm–5:30 pm
In-person lecture: The Dybbuk—Jewish Romeo and Juliet meets The Exorcist—revolutionized the dybbuk trope by establishing direct links with the traumas of the past.
This event is free.
- All | UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni
Image: Ephraim Moshe Lilien, Dybbuk (1908). Public domain.
S. An-sky’s modernist drama, The Dybbuk, Or Between Two Worlds (1914) premiered in 1920 in Warsaw, and immediately became a global sensation. An-sky’s play—the Jewish Romeo and Juliet meets The Exorcist—revolutionized the dybbuk trope by establishing direct links with the traumas of the past. The dybbuk, a soul of the dead that possesses a living body, has been a key motif in Jewish mystical thought and culture since the sixteenth century, and through An-sky’s The Dybbuk, it has held a strong grip on artists and audiences for the last hundred years, having inspired countless works of theater, film, and literature.
This talk will examine cultural exploration of collective trauma and postmemory in The Dybbuk as a mode of reflection on the modern Jewish experience and our relationship with the past. And finally, it will address a most pressing question: Why are we still talking about premodern dybbuks in the twenty-first century?
About the Speaker
Dr. Agi Legutko
Senior Lecturer in Yiddish, Director of the Yiddish Language Program at Columbia University
Dr. Agi Legutko is Senior Lecturer in Yiddish and Director of the Yiddish Language Program at Columbia University, where she teaches Yiddish language and literature. She specializes in modern Yiddish literature, language, and culture, women and gender studies, and spirit possession in Judaism. She received her Ph.D. with distinction in Yiddish Studies at Columbia University and her publications have appeared in several journals and essay collections on Yiddish literature and culture, such as Silent Souls? Women in Yiddish Culture andmost recently, The Dybbuk Century: The Jewish Play that Possessed the World (2023). Her research interests include gender, trauma, memory, performance and the body represented in Jewish literatures, theater, and film as well as digital humanities and language pedagogy in the post-method era. She is currently completing a manuscript exploring the trope of dybbuk possession in modern Jewish cultures.More about Dr. Agi Legutko