An “endowed chair” is a professorship awarded as an ultimate honor to a scholar and teacher. We don’t have any in the English department, but hope to possess one some day. Endowing a chair is as easy as writing a check for two and a half million dollars. In case you have that kind of money burning a hole in your pocket, I offer the description of an endowed chair we’d really like to see here:
Endowed Chair in Jewish American Literature. The English Department of the George Washington University has long had deep strengths in the study of ethnic and minority literatures. Our faculty are internationally well regarded for their teaching and scholarship in African American, Asian American, Caribbean, Irish, South Asian, and other literary traditions. Given these strengths in literature outside the traditional American canon, and given the strong demand for such a subject among our undergraduates, we desire to expand and to better integrate our teaching of Jewish literature in English. We have many students who wish to take courses on topics related to the Jewish experience as expressed through literature, but no faculty member devoted solely to the area. We hope, through the generosity of a committed donor, to be able to hire a tenured or tenure track faculty member who will be able to bring the study of Jewish literature (and especially Jewish American literature) permanently into our classroom.
We are committed to teaching Jewish literature in English both as a long tradition and as a contemporary artistic phenomenon. We recognize the renewal of interest among the current generation of students in Jewish identity and Jewish cultural practice — including klezmer music, cultural rituals of Jewish American life such as the bar/bat mitzvah; ongoing scholarly work on the Holocaust and its legacies, as the generation that directly lived through the Shoah dwindles; burgeoning interest in inter-ethnic relations in the “post-Civil Rights” era. Young Jewish writers like Matthew Klam, Jonathan Lethem, Maya Goldberg, Michael Chabon, and Jonathan Saffran Foer have been at the forefront of exploring the shape and place of Jewish identities in the globalized world of the 21st century. Students at GW deserve to have the opportunity to experience the richness of this vital field.