Raised in an academic family with a Jewish background, Patricia Rosenmeyer's interests in Jewish studies and history is twofold. The UNC classics professor was recently appointed as the director of the Carolina Center for Jewish studies.
Rosenmeyer starts her new position at the center on July 1.
Rosenmeyer said her parents were refugees who fled Germany before the outbreak of World War II and many members of her family were victims of the Holocaust. This personal connection to history is only one reason for Rosenmeyer's interest in Jewish studies.
She added that she grew up surrounded by intellectual interests in poetry and literature spanning multiple languages, such as Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Yiddish.
This environment, Rosenmeyer said, inspired her studies in classics. She earned her bachelor of arts in classics at Harvard University. She also received a Marshall Scholarship at King’s College, Cambridge University, where she received a second bachelor of arts and a master's degree in classics. Additionally, Rosenmeyer has a doctorate from Princeton University.
“Basically all my studies were in classical languages," Rosenmeyer said. "So ancient Greek and Latin. Although my Ph.D. is in comparative literature and classics, so I’ve always been interested in interdisciplinary topics, but very language-based.”
Even before attending school, Rosenmeyer said her family gave her an early insight into academia. Her father taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and she grew up around the campus.
Rosenmeyer taught at the University of Michigan, Yale University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was also involved with a center of Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In 2017, Rosenmeyer joined UNC as the George L. Paddison chairperson of classics and has since been teaching here for five years. She will continue to teach in the Department of Classics as she starts her new role at the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies.
“In the first year of taking on the directorship, it's going to be a very steep learning curve," Rosenmeyer said. "I anticipate spending a lot of time learning how the position functions.”
Michele Rivkin-Fish, the next associate director for the center, said the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies is both a liaison between UNC and the broader community and a site for academic debates and discussions.
“One of the most important things that the Center for Jewish Studies does is to allow our community to understand both the manifestations of anti-Semitism and movements to oppose anti-Semitism, and also to include groups such as Jews, who are minorities, into the larger society," Rivkin-Fish said.
Rosenmeyer developed an interest in the center shortly after joining UNC. Ruth von Bernuth, the current director of the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, said that, when Rosenmeyer became involved in the center, participating in fellowship and event committees.
“I think that's what we were looking for, for someone who can spark the interest in undergraduate students and graduate students, and in faculty,” von Bernuth said.
Rosenmeyer is presently conducting research focusing on Sappho, an ancient Greek female poet, and making her work more accessible to younger students, along with studying the role that the great classics played in the early 20th century. She is also writing about Hebrew and Yiddish translations of Homer’s Iliad and other classics.
She said she also plans to do archival work in the United Kingdom over the summer and lecture in Israel, while hoping to continue to be an active scholar and participate in conferences.
“I think that Dr. Rosenmeyer is going to be, when she starts her tenure as the director, she's going to be, in a way, steering a very well developed ship,” Rivkin-Fish said. “She's going to be contributing to a group of committed faculty and students who are just doing wonderful work.”
Rosenmeyer said she's excited to see how being the director can open up further opportunities for intellectual exchange and growth of the center. She also wants to continue the work that previous directors, such as von Bernuth, have done by making sure that the center has a healthy financial footing.
“I feel pretty humble, looking at what has been done," she said. "So I hope I can match that and take it further."
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