Marlene Pomper Memorial Lecture

Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language: A Jewish Story

Dr. Esther Shor
Professor of English and Inaugural Behrman Professor in the Council of the Humanities, Princeton University

Dr. Esther Schor discusses her seven-year, world-wide journey among Esperantists, the topic of her new book, Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal LanguageSchor’s talk will focus on the Jewish context for the invention of Esperanto, and its place in modern Jewish thought and history.

In this first full history of a constructed language, poet and scholar Esther Schor traces the life of Esperanto. She follows the path from its invention in 1887 by L. L. Zamenhof, a Jewish ophthalmologist from Warsaw, through its turn-of-the-century golden age as the great hope of embattled cosmopolites, to its suppression by nationalist regimes and its resurgence as a bridge across the Cold War. She plunges into the mechanics of creating a language from scratch, one based on rational systems that would be easy to learn, politically neutral, and allow all to speak to all. Rooted in the dark soil of Europe, Esperanto failed to stem the continent’s bloodletting, of course, but as Schor shows, the ideal continues draw a following of modern universalists dedicated to its visionary goal.

Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language, Emma Lazarus, received a 2006 National Jewish Book Award, and will be available for purchase.  Shor also authored Bearing the Dead:  The British Culture of Mourning from the Enlightenment to Victoria. A poet and essayist, she has written two volumes of poems and a memoir, My Last J-Date. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, Tablet, the Jewish Review of Books, and The Forward, among other publications.  A professor of English at Princeton University, Schor lives in Princeton, NJ.

A light breakfast will be served.

Members – no charge; Non-members $5

  • Sun, Apr 30, 2017
    9:30 am - 11:00 am