Mandel, Naomi 1969-

views updated

Mandel, Naomi 1969-


Born June 22, 1969; immigrated with family to United States. Education: Tel Aviv University, B.A., B.M.; University of California, Irvine, M.A., Ph.D.


Office—Department of English, University of Rhode Island, 114 Independence Hall, 60 Upper College Rd., Kingston, RI 02881.


Educator, writer, and editor. University of Rhode Island, Kingston, associate professor of English and comparative literature.


(Editor, with Alain-Philippe Durand) Novels of the Contemporary Extreme, Continuum (New York, NY), 2006.

Against the Unspeakable: Complicity, the Holocaust, and Slavery in America, University of Virginia Press (Charlottesville, VA), 2006.

Cofounder of the online Journal for Mundane Behavior.


Naomi Mandel is an English professor who grew up in Israel. Her experience with a political climate characterized by strife and terrorism led her to become interested in international politics, community identity, mourning, trauma, violence, and war, with a particular interest in the Holocaust and Hiroshima, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb during World War II. She is also cofounder of the online Journal for Mundane Behavior, which features articles about the common experiences of everyday life that are largely ignored but provide insights into human nature.

In her book Against the Unspeakable: Complicity, the Holocaust, and Slavery in America, the author examines the ramifications of the idea of the "unspeak- able" when it comes to human atrocities such as the Holocaust and slavery. In a profile of the author on the Pacer Web site, Jan Wenzel noted: "Mandel finds it odd that Americans have a museum in Washington, DC dedicated to the Holocaust, which took place in Europe, yet no museum in the nation's capital that commemorates slavery in the U.S."

In her book, Mandel notes that the Nazi genocide of European Jews during World War II is a primary example of how regarding something as "unspeakable" presents serious challenges to the ability of people to represent the suffering incurred by the victims, as well as the articulation of identity and the practicing of ethics. According to the author, the term "unspeakable" largely serves to further specific political agendas while also enticing people to forget their own vulnerability to suffering. In the book, the author discusses a variety of texts, including Beloved by Toni Morrison, the film Schindler's List by Steven Spielberg, and the book Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron. Overall, the author explores when, how, and why the term "unspeakable" is used as she draws on critical theory, literary analysis, and film studies to examine the question of the "unspeakable." The author also presents her idea of a developing a way of reading about atrocities "that she hopes is more ethically and critically productive," as noted by a contributor to Reference & Research Book News.

Mandel is also the editor, with Alain-Philippe Durand, of Novels of the Contemporary Extreme, which presents a series of essays that investigate this new form of fiction and explores its international dimension. These novels are typically set in a world that is similar yet also noticeably different from the real world. For example, they often depict an apocalyptic world beset by destruction and violence. The essays in the collection describe the phenomenon of this type of novel, including their styles and themes and the reasons for their success.



Reference & Research Book News, May, 2007, review of Against the Unspeakable: Complicity, the Holocaust, and Slavery in America.


Pacer, (February 5, 2008), Jan Wenzel, "Terrorist Alerts ‘Mundane’ for English Professor."

University of Rhode Island Department of English Web site, (February 5, 2008), faculty profile of author.

University of Virginia Press, (February 5, 2008), overview of Against the Unspeakable.