Linda Dittmar (October 2017)
Born in NYC (1938), Linda Dittmar grew up in Tel Aviv during the early years of Israel’s formation. She served in the Israeli military, attended the Hebrew University, married an American, and moved to New York City in 1961. In NY she attended college (CCNY) at night, working at the city’s 42nd St. Public Library daytime.
The move to New York was momentous, not least because she found herself living on the edge of Harlem, where she saw racism and poverty she had never expected. On campus students were organizing for Freedom Rides, and at home she heard Pacifica Radio. Most importantly, she was assigned to work at the Library’s Periodical Room, where she discovered publications like Downbeat, the Ku Klux Klan’s newsletter, the Jewish Forward, the communist Southern Patriot, and I.F. Stone’s Weekly. It was a crash course in American culture, racism, and progressive politics.
In 1962 and still an undergraduate, Linda moved to Stanford, where the “Farm”’s bucolic college life meant another dizzying growth. Completing her BA, she continued on to a Ph.D in English (completed 1970) focusing on comparative literary modernisms. Here, too, academia was not the proverbial ivory tower. Echoes of Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement reached Stanford, as did antiwar and civil right activism, the grape boycott, the counter culture, and incipient feminism.
Those years shaped Linda’s adult life as a scholar, educator, and member of society. She accepted a teaching position at the University of Massachusetts-Boston (UMB)--a newly created (1965) urban, commuting university, that serves a diverse student body. At UMB (1969-1970) she taught innovative courses in literature and film studies as well as cross-disciplinary courses in American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Law and Justice Program.
Like her teaching, Linda’s scholarship focused on narrative in both film and literature. It ncludes the books From Hanoi to Hollywood; The Vietnam War in American Film, and Multiple Voices in Feminist Film Criticism and numerous book chapters and articles where gender, ethnicity, social class, and post-colonialism are key concerns. Her editorial work for the magazine, Radical Teacher also reflects these interest, as did her teaching at the University of Paris and Tel Aviv University, and two Fulbright grants to India, the latter as Distinguished Chair. At UMB she directed the English Department’s Graduate Program and Chaired the Faculty Senate, among other things. At the Society for Cinema Studies she chaired a special Task Force on Race, was elected to the Executive Council, and chaired its Annual Program.
Now Professor Emerita, her focus shifted to Israel/Palestine--a return to her roots. Following several years’ collaboration with a photographer to locate depopulated Palestinian Villages inside Israel, Linda is now writing a memoir about
Israel’s emergence and the Palestinian exile. This current project is a new departure for her, a shift from academic writing to creative non-fiction. To that end, she honed her craft in memoir workshops, taken over several years. Two short pieces are now in print.