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April 12, 2010

Annual Yom Hashoah Observance

UVA Professor Kevin Hart Talks About Lyrical and Narrative Forgiveness

Professor Sophie Berman, Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies began her introduction for St. Francis College’s Annual Yom HaShoah Observance on April 12 by stressing that it was our duty as a Franciscan institution to be a part of events that take place around the world, saying,

“It is for us a sacred duty, as a Catholic and Franciscan institution, to voice our remembrance of the six million victims murdered by the Nazis for no other reason than the fact they were Jews. We stand up to the evil will that set out to destroy them as we remember the victims and recognize their ineffaceable place in the human community.”

The keynote speaker for the event was University of Virginia Professor Kevin Hart who began his talk by letting the audience know that his in-laws were Holocaust survivors and several members of his wife’s family were killed in the Holocaust.

Hart offered a wide ranging talk about the subject of forgiveness that included references to philosophers like Jacques Derrida and Vladimir Jankélévitch and placed it in context with Christian Moral Theology. Professor Hart divided the idea of forgiveness into two parts, lyrical and narrative. He said that lyrical forgiveness is something that is freely given without conditions and can be in competition with our traditional thoughts on justice because in a sense it displaces justice with love. He said forgiveness is like a gift, but one where a gift cannot be given back in return.

Regarding narrative forgiveness, Hart talked about how stories of forgiveness allow us to learn more about the nature of forgiving and of the forgiven. He used the Parable of the Prodigal Son as a jumping off point for this. Hart also said that rather than compete with justice, narrative forgiveness incorporates justice.


Kevin Hart is Chairman and Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Christian Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. Among his recent books are The Exorbitant: Emmanuel Levinas between Jews and Christians (Fordham UP), The Dark Gaze: Maurice Blanchot and the Sacred (Chicago UP) and Counter-Experiences: Reading Jean-Luc Marion (Notre Dame UP). He co-edits the series "Thresholds" for Notre Dame UP and edits a series on phenomenology and theology for Northwestern UP. He sits on the comité scientifique of the works of Emmanuel Lévinas (Grasset). His poetry is collected in Flame Tree: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) and Young Rain (Notre Dame UP). He has recently completed a new volume of poems, Morning Knowledge, and several new scholarly works are forthcoming.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.
St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201

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