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Oral History
Oscar Mandel Oral History Interview with Shirley Cohen

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An interview in three sessions, in October and November 1994, with Oscar Mandel, professor of literature in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences. Dr. Mandel received his BA from New York University (1947), his MA from Columbia (1948), and his PhD from Ohio State University (1951). He came to Caltech as a visiting associate professor from the University of Nebraska in 1961, joined the faculty the following year, and became a full professor in 1980 (emeritus, 2003). He recalls his childhood in Antwerp, where his father was a diamond dealer; family’s escape to New York after Germans invaded Begium; his subsequent education at Forest Hills High School, New York University, and Columbia. Recalls his army service 1953-55; five years at University of Nebraska; Fulbright to Netherlands, 1960. Marriage; recruitment to Caltech. Joins faculty after a year as a visitor, 1962. Recollections of Humanities Division in 1960s, chaired by Hallett Smith, and of his colleagues. Interest in foreign-language programs. Changes in the division wrought by Robert Huttenback; Huttenback’s attempts to deny tenure to Jenijoy La Belle. Recalls his establishment of Spectrum Productions and enlistment of Shirley Marneus as director of plays in Ramo Auditorium with professional casts, 1971-1978. Comments on current inadequacy of literature department; his establishment of programs in art history, music, and creative writing, taught by lecturers; his sense that Caltech undergraduates are shortchanged by high degree of specialization in the humanities. He concludes the interview by describing his recent research on Italian painter Alessandro Magnasco and Dutch 17th-century art.

ID: 1996-00059
Mandel, Oscar (Literature)

Creation Oct. 26, 1994 through Nov. 7, 1994

LENGTH: 74 pages

Topics: Humanities

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