Mann, Barbara E.
Mann, Barbara E.
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, Center for the Study of Religion, faculty fellow, 1997-2004; Jewish Theological Seminary, New York, NY, associate professor, Simon H. Fabian Chair in Hebrew Literature; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, visiting scholar, 2007.
Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship, 1999.
Redemption Street (poetry), Arava Books (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1992.
Coeditor of Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History.
A writer and an educator, Barbara E. Mann earned her bachelor's degree in Jewish studies and English literature in 1984 from Boston University. She continued her studies at the graduate level, attending New York University and graduating with a master's degree in English, then obtaining her doctorate in comparative literature in 1997 at the University of California at Berkeley. Over the course of her career, she has worked at Princeton University, where she served as a faculty fellow for the Center for the Study of Religion from 1997 through 2004, and as both an associate professor and the Simon H. Fabian Chair in Hebrew Literature for the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. In 2007 she took a sabbatical in order to serve as a visiting scholar at the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Mann's primary areas of academic and research studies include Israeli and Jewish literature, modern poetry, literary modernism, cultural studies, urban studies, and fine arts. In addition to her academic endeavors, Mann serves as the coeditor-in-chief for Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History. She has written numerous academic papers, which she has presented during lectures at scholarly conferences in the United States, Israel, and across Europe. In addition, she is the author of A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv, and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space, which was published in 2006.
As a member of the global community, Tel Aviv is sometimes looked upon as a city that exists primarily within its historical context, given its positioning in the Middle East and that region's role in the early phases of civilization. However, it is also a modern, bustling and thriving community that exists in the present world, and as such has much to offer, in particular to the arts and to the way it has woven its past into the present. In A Place in History, Mann looks at the city of Tel Aviv with an artistic and intellectual eye, focusing on all of the various achievements of the city's citizens in the realm of the arts, including literature, poetry, journalism, art, photography, and even architecture and city planning. Mann compares many areas of Tel Aviv to other modern cities, showing how it fits into the worldwide concept of modernity. She discusses the architecture of Tel Aviv, and how its style came about more through trial and error and a search for purpose than through a conscious school of design. She also considers the way the city developed in relation to the ways in which Israelis themselves have been shaped by their national identity, first as a Jewish people searching for a land of their own, and then ultimately as Israelis building their nation based on the values they had carried with them for thousands of years. In a review for Tikkun, writer Michael Berkowitz observed that "Mann brilliantly succeeds in capturing a city riddled with contradictions and ‘competing visions’—reverberating between the profane and the sacred, beauty and ‘crass tastelessness.’" The use of literature and poetry and other artistic creations considered part of the cultural makeup of Tel Aviv serve as examples of the way the city has developed in keeping with the spirit of its people, taking old ways and thoughts and using them as the foundation for a more modern existence and outlook. Mann divides these examples by chapter, providing readers with an easily accessible reference.
The result, according to Berkowitz in his Tikkun review, is "an authoritative guide to the complex textualities" of the city of Tel Aviv.
Mann told CA: "My first publication was a book of original poems and photographs called Redemption Street published by Arava Books in Tel Aviv in 1992. I arrived in Israel as a new immigrant in the mid-1980s and was interested in exploring Tel Aviv's history through its streets. I studied black-and-white photography and began to develop my own pictures, documenting my neighborhood as well as older neighborhoods of the city. Oddly enough, it was an Andy Warhol retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which I saw during a visit, that shaped my visual sense of the city and its more colloquial, even banal, details. Returning to Tel Aviv, I became interested in capturing the everyday, intimate details of life in a Mediterranean city. My later scholarly work on Tel Aviv, and on the relation between text and image, grew out of this initial encounter with the city, and my desire to discover it in words and pictures."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February, 2007, L.D. Loeb, review of A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv, and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space, p. 1039.
Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of A Place in History.
Tikkun, September 1, 2006, Michael Berkowitz, review of A Place in History, p. 75.
H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (April 30, 2008), review of A Place in History.
Jewish Theological Seminary Web site,http://www.jtsa.edu/ (March 17, 2008), faculty profile.