Hartman, Geoffrey

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HARTMAN, GEOFFREY (1929– ), child survivor of the Holocaust and scholar. Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Hartman was sent on a Kindertransport to England in 1939. He spent the war years in Waddeston with 19 other boys, on the estate of James Rothschild. In 1945, he came to the United States where he was reunited with his mother. Hartman attended Queens College in New York City and earned his Ph.D. at Yale where he taught for almost 40 years. He was the Sterling Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Yale and project director and faculty advisor to the Fortunoff Video Archive.

Hartman became acquainted with the Holocaust Survivors Film Project in 1979 through his wife's participation. When the project's founders decided to expand to include survivors' testimonies from around the country, Hartman, both a project board and Yale faculty member, urged the university to assist the effort. He recognized the importance and urgency of preserving Holocaust testimony and believed the university's expertise in collections and cataloguing would make it an ideal home for the project. With his encouragement and Yale's president, A. Bartlett Giamatti's support, almost 200 testimonies were deposited at the Sterling Memorial Library in 1981. Professor Hartman became faculty advisor and was actively involved in directing the project's development and growth. "The original thought about the archive was that when we reached a collection of 1,000 testimonies, we'd close shop," said Hartman. "But our feeling changed, and we decided that any survivor who wanted to tell his or her story should be heard." The project became the Fortunoff Video Archive in 1987. The Archive now houses over 4,300 testimonies recorded in more than 20 languages.

Hartman is an iconoclastic scholar of international repute in the field of contemporary criticism. Trained at Yale as a comparatist, and part of "The Yale School" in the 1970s and 1980s, his name is associated with the theory of deconstruction. His range of thinking, however, cannot be confined to one school of thought. Hartman's ideas regarding the synergy of the theoretical and the practical and the relationship between the text and its reader have shaped the field of criticism. This profound approach also underlies his reading of Holocaust testimony.

In addition to his large body of works in literary criticism, Hartman has written extensively on Holocaust memory. Both his own experiences and those recorded in the Archive, have informed Hartman's work, which includes Holocaust Remembrance: The Shapes of Memory; The Longest Shadow: In the Aftermath of the Holocaust; and Scars of the Spirit: The Struggle Against Inauthenticity. He is also the author of and has co-authored numerous related articles. In his writing he probes the subject of Holocaust memory in all of its complexities; finding a balance between authentic remembering and meaningful representation; the effect of and integration of trauma and Holocaust memory in survivors' lives; and how traumatic memories play out in the consciousness of the larger society as well.

[Beth Cohen (2nd ed.)]