Skidmore to host March 29 program on cultural and cinematic representation of Italian Jews

Risa Sodi, Official Headshot SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Italian Jews: An evening of cultural history and cinematic representation, is scheduled Sunday, March 29, in Gannett Auditorium of Palamountain Hall at Skidmore College.

Yale University scholar Risa Sodi will discuss “Pitigliano, the (Italian) Little Jerusalem” at 4 p.m. A reception will follow at 5 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., Ferzan Ozpetek’s 2004 film Facing Windows will be screened followed by a Q & A session with Professor Sodi.

Admission is free and open to the public. Skidmore’s departments of Foreign Languages and Literatures and History are sponsors of the program, with funding from the Jacob Perlow Fund.

Pitigliano, a small, rural Italian hill town just about halfway between Florence and Rome, was known for centuries as La piccola Gerusalemme, the Little Jerusalem, for its flourishing Jewish community, the learning of its inhabitants, and its unusually cordial interfaith relations. Sodi’s talk will investigate this unusual town and community, also renowned for its stunningly beautiful silhouette, and provide answers to some questions. What made Pitigliano unique? What was Jewish life like in rural Italy? How did the Jewish and Catholic communities interact? What does 1492 have to do with Pitigliano? How did the Jewish community fare during the Holocaust? What is Pitigliano like today?

Tying together the rural with the urban, attention will shift to Rome, the setting of Ferzan Ozpetek’s 2004 La finestra di fronte (Facing Windows). The personal becomes political in this film as Ozpetek — a Turkish director residing in Italy — explores themes of love, commitment, loyalty, and amnesia of several different sorts. Along the way, he gives a “window” into the acute dangers that stalked the wartime Roman Jewish community.

Risa Sodi holds a B.A. magna cum laude in history and Italian from Smith College, an M.A. in French and Italian from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and M.Phil. and a Ph.D. degrees in Italian language and literature from Yale. From 1995-2013, she served in the Yale Italian Department as the Senior Lector II and Language Program Director, where she taught undergraduate and graduate courses on Jewish Italy, opera, film, modern literature, and foreign language pedagogy. She also regularly taught courses abroad in Sardinia, Umbria and Tuscany in conjunction with Yale Summer Session.

In 1990, Sodi published A Dante of Our Time: Primo Levi and Auschwitz, the first monograph on Levi in English, which drew on her 1987 Partisan Review interview; the book was reprinted 2012. She is also the author of Narrative and Imperative: The First Fifty Years of Italian Holocaust Literature, 1943-1993 (2007) and, with Millicent Marcus, New Reflections on Primo Levi: Before and After Auschwitz (2011). Her most recent publication is a chapter in the Modern Language Association volume, Approaches to Teaching Primo Levi (2015).

Sodi has lectured in Canada, England, France, Italy, and the United States on the Jewish Italy and Italian Jewish authors, Holocaust in Italy, and Italian film. She has also published many articles on these topics.

Since 2013, Sodi has served as the inaugural director of academic advising for Yale College. In that role, she supports the work of the residential college deans, freshman and sophomore advisers, and directors of undergraduate study, and develops new academic advising programs. Since July 1, 2014, she has also held an appointment as associate director of the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, where she develops and leads programs for faculty members, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate students.

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