Top Young Historians: 22 – Marci Lynn Shore

TOP YOUNG HISTORIANS

Edited by Bonnie K. Goodman

22: Marci Lynn Shore, 6-12-06

Basic Facts

Teaching Position: 2002-2006: Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Indiana University;
2006-2007: Blaustein Visiting Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies (courtesy appointment in History) at Yale University;
As of July 2007, Assistant Professor of History, Yale University
Area of Research: Modern European history, East European history, Polish-Jewish History; Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History in Modern Europe
Education: Ph.D., Stanford University, Department of History, 2001
Major Publications: Shore is the author of Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism, 1918-1968 (Yale University Press, 2006).
Marci Lynn Shore JPGShore is also the translator of The Black Seasons, translation of the Polish Holocaust memoir Czarne sezony by Michal Glowinski (Northwestern University Press, 2005). In 2004, she began a project on avant-garde movements throughout eastern and central Europe in the 1910s and 1920s.
Awards: 2004 Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History (Category A) for Caviar and Ashes;
2004 Indiana University Trustees’ Teaching Award;
1998 Joint Research/Exchange Program Award of Excellence for the project “Gender and Historical Memory in Former Czechoslovakia” (with Jacqui True and Eva Vešínová-Kalivodová);
1994 Firestone Medal for Excellence in Undergraduate Research for thesis The Sacred and the Myth: Power, Ideology, and Dissent in Normalization-era Czechoslovakia;
2005 Russian and East European Studies Institute Summer Faculty Research Fellowship;
2005 Indiana University College Arts and Humanities Institute Research Travel Grant;
2004 Indiana University President’s Council on International Programs International Projects and Activities Grant;
2004 Indiana University Grant-in-Aid of Research;
2004 Koret Foundation Jewish Studies Publication Programs Subvention Award 2004 Trustees’ Teaching Award;
2004 Indiana University Summer Faculty Fellowship;
2003 Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut, Essen (resident fellowship for the project “Europe and Love”);
2003 Indiana University Russian and East European Studies Institute Mellon Endowment Faculty Grant-in-Aid;
2002 American Councils for International Education Title VIII Research Scholar/ Combined Research and Language Training Program;
2001-2002 Columbia University Harriman Postdoctoral Fellowship;
2000-2001 Mellon Dissertation Writing Fellowship Department of Education Fulbright-Hays doctoral dissertation award ;
1999-2000 International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) Individual Advanced Research in Central and Eastern Europe grant;
1999 Stanford Center for Russian and East European Studies, summer FLAS grant;
1998 Stanford Center for Russian and East European Studies, summer research grant;
1998 Jewish Community Endowment Newhouse Fund Grant;
1997 Joint Research/Exchange Program grant for international collaborative projects (with Jacqui True and Eva Vešínová-Kalivodová);
1996-1999 Stanford University History Department Graduate Fellowship;
1997 Institute of International Education Fulbright, Warsaw, Poland;
1996 University of Toronto Centre for Russian and East European Studies Mellon language study grant;
1995-1996 University of Toronto Connaught Scholarship.
Additional Info: Shore was the 2004-2005 Senior Fellow, Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, Vienna and the 2001-2002 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Harriman Institute, Columbia University.
Shore was the Co-editor of the two-part special issue of the bilingual journal Jedním Okem/One Eye Open (1997-1998).

Personal Anecdote

When I left Warsaw in September 2000 after 12 months of dissertation research, I had thousands of pages of photocopies from Polish archives. There were too many to fit into my carry-on luggage, so I packed them in suitcases and checked them on the flight from Warsaw to New York. Mercifully, nothing was lost. The experience, though, was so anxiety-provoking, that I couldn’t bear the thought of doing it once more when I flew from the east coast back to Stanford. Insurance is worthless in such cases after all, I couldn’t possibly insure the photocopies for what they were worth to me. If I were to lose them, I’d have no dissertation.

I spoke to my (ever generous and long-suffering) dissertation advisor on the phone, and told him I didn’t think I could come back to Stanford due to my inability to face either the anxiety of checking the archival documents on the plane one more time or the anxiety of shipping them. My advisor then suggested that I drive back to California in which case I could keep the documents with me at all times. I’d had no experience in the middle of the country I’d only ever flown between New York and San Francisco and had little idea of what was in between or how long it might take. So I asked him, “Isn’t that a long drive?” The reply: “Oh, it’s not such a big deal. Just enjoy the scenery.”

I didn’t actually have a car. In fact, I’d barely driven at all since high school. But my inclination was to always follow my advisor’s advice (which 99% of the time worked out beautifully), so half an hour or so later I was at a used car lot, talking to Troy, the used car dealer from whom my little brother had recently bought a car. Troy shook my hand and asked, So, do you want the tinted windows and the moon roof and the spiked hubcaps like your brother? About twenty minutes after I had explained to Troy that no, there was really no need for me to look cool in the car, I was driving away in a little blue Honda (the first and only car I test drove I was reluctant to do too much test driving given that I hadn’t driven in so long and wasn’t entirely certain I remembered how). I packed all my folders of documents in the trunk, mostly loose (on the assumption that if someone were to break into the car, that person might grab a box or a suitcase, but would be unlikely bother to gather up several thousand pages of Polish documents).

Soon after that I was on the highway, heading west. The first night I visited my friend Basia in Columbus; the second night I stayed with my brother’s girlfriend in Chicago. Everything was going quite well. But once I’d left Chicago and settled onto route 80 the country seemed to stretch out endlessly. In Moscow that summer, I’d bought lots of Russian literature and poetry on tape, and so I was practicing my Russian. I listened to Turgenev’s Mumu over and over again, and cried each time when Gerasim had to drown the little dog.

It was September and quite hot. I was wearing a sleeveless dress and sunglasses and had the air conditioner turned on. Days passed one after another and I still seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. And each time Mumu had to die. At one point it began to rain. I took my sunglasses off and turned off the air conditioner. Some time later I noticed something white and vaguely fluffy on the ground, but I supposed that it must be some kind of foam fertilizer.

As I was approaching a truck struck in Laramie, Wyoming policemen began pulling everyone off the highway. When I got out of the car, it had suddenly gotten very cold. No one was being allowed back on the highway, and the truck drivers were saying the road was closed. Somewhat frantically I began asking the other drivers, “What happened? When are they going to open the highway?” No one seemed to know anything. I was getting more and more anxious. The third or fourth person I asked was a man in his fifties, who said, “Oh, I know you. You’re driving the blue Honda. We stayed at the same Motel 6 last night. I’m a psychotherapist, and I can already tell you have a problem with panic disorder.” I asked him again: “When are they going to open the highway???”

As it turned out, he didn’t know when anyone was going to open the highway, but he did know what had happened: there was a freak September blizzard half an hour or so west of where we were; the driving had become dangerous, and this was the closest town in which to pull people off the highway. Moreover, this wasn’t like in New York, where the police closed a road and you had to follow detour signs there only was one road, and they had closed it in both directions.

I felt as if I were in the midst of a surrealist nightmare, which the psychotherapist seemed to find rather amusing. He suggested we sit down at the Wendy’s at the truck stop. We were joined by a born-again Christian Federal Aviation worker from Oklahoma, who immediately brought up God (and what he just as immediately suspected was my insufficiently close relationship to Him). Needless to say, I didn’t get rid of them for the rest of the my time there. We became a strange trio: each morning they would knock on the door of my motel room and drag me to a Mexican restaurant for breakfast they insisted upon this, on the grounds that I wasn’t eating enough protein, and bagels (low in protein, high in carbohydrate who knew?) were precisely what one should not be eating for breakfast. They put antifreeze in my car. By the second or third day I had, strangely, begun to accept the situation. We found the local gym and got guest passes. We found the local movie theater and went to see Almost Famous.

I had no idea how long this would last, how long I would be there. In the meantime I began sending postcards back to my dissertation committee: “I’m stranded in Laramie, Wyoming with several thousand pages of photocopies of Polish archival documents. Hope very much to see you soon. . .”

And in fact on the morning of the fourth day, the police opened the highway. A few days later I was back at Stanford. Shortly after that I spotted a fire truck on the street where I was living and immediately went to Office Depot to buy a fireproof safe for my photocopies. . .

Quotes

By Marci Lynn Shore

  • “For this generation of Varsovian intellectuals born at the fin-de-siècle, life was unbearably heavy. They moved about in entangled circles with shifting boundaries, connected to one another by not more than one or two degrees of separation. They were quintessential cosmopolitans, polyglots who felt at home in Moscow, Paris and Berlin yet who at once felt inextricably bound to Poland, who believed in their role as the conscience of the nation, who very much felt that Warsaw belonged to them. They suffered (sometimes advantageously, sometimes painfully) from a certain pathological narcissism. They sat in their café called Ziemianska and believed, with absolute sincerity, that the world turned on what they said there. Often they fell into bouts of despair and self-hatred, and not despite, but rather precisely because of their narcissism, they embody the observation that intellectuals comprise the only class that loves to hate itself.

    Caviar and Ashes JPGIn the elegant capital city of Warsaw, the editor Mieczyslaw Grydzewski would come with his two dachshunds to a café called Ziemianska. In the summer the café on Mazowiecka Street opened its garden, yet the place of honor remained a table poised on a platform that protruded from the stairway. In these years following the First World War, a small group of poets would gather at Ziemianska. Their Warsaw was a city of cafés and cabarets, of droshkies pulled by horses through cobblestone streets. Often they fell into depressions, overcome with nihilism, with the premonition that the world would soon end. Even so, just so, these were lively times at Ziemianska. The beautiful Ola Watowa, who might have become an actress, loved their café life: At Ziemianska our friends, people we knew sat around every table, passing from one to another. The atmosphere was lively, amusing, people were witty. There were some venomous jokes as well: instances of ridicule, like ‘Wazyk with the ugly little face’ [Wazyk brzydki twarzyk]. Painters, writers, poets. Slonimski was incomparable in his sharp wit. . . . Impassioned discussions would break out constantly, everywhere. . . .On rare occasions the wonderful Witkacy would appear. In the summer Stefan Zeromski beautiful, imposing would sit in the garden at Ziemianska. . . . I would mix chocolate into my coffee.” — Marci Lynn Shore in “Caviar and Ashes”

About Marci Lynn Shore

  • “Marci Shore’s account of the founding generation of Polish intellectual Communists reaches far beyond its subject. In its deeply engaged narrative of the lives and illusions of the twentieth-century Polish avant-garde, Caviar and Ashes recovers a fascinating, talented community of men, women and ideas now rapidly receding beyond memory. Professor Shore’s history of Polish Marxists is not just an impressive work of historical scholarship; it is a moving elegy to a turbulent century and a forgotten world.” — Tony Judt, author of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 reviewing “Caviar and Ashes”
  • “This book is utterly original, and its scholarship and I don’t use this word lightly is breathtaking. Shore has produced a penetrating study of a host of the twentieth century’s most perplexing issues.” — Jan T. Gross, Princeton University reviewing “Caviar and Ashes”
  • “Shore chronicles the collective journey of a group of brilliant and endlessly dedicated intellectuals through one of the worst hells, both physical and spiritual, of the century just ended. There is scarcely any study I can think of in any language to compare to this one.” — Michael Steinlauf, Gratz College reviewing “Caviar and Ashes”
  • “A marvelous example of intellectual history at its best, this book captures the moral and political dilemmas of a generation of brilliant writers who experienced communism first as a dream, then as a nightmare. A superb addition to the ever disturbing literature on the ‘God that failed.'” — Vladimir Tismaneanu, author of Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History of Romanian Communism reviewing “Caviar and Ashes”
  • “This was an excellent class. Professor Shore definitely enjoys her subject and is very knowledgeble. I actually looked forward to the lectures everytime.”…”Professor Shore is still the best professor I’ve ever had. her class was beyond interesting, and was responsible for my wanting to learn so much more about the topic. She is funny, compassionate, and brilliant. if I still went to IU, I would take any class.” Anonymous Students

Posted on Sunday, June 11, 2006 at 1:32 PM

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