Septuagenarian's graduation triumph

11 July 2002
NAOMI Dison-Kaplan, UCT alumnus and 75 year-old mother and grandmother, will be capped PhD in Hebrew Studies at this week's graduation ceremony. She obtained her PhD for her thesis titled, The Power of Laments in Alleviating Despair: Revisiting Hebrew Laments, supervised by Dr Azila Reisenberger of the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Dison-Kaplan was working on her MA in Hebrew Studies when her first husband, Lewis Dison, died. However, she returned to her studies, gaining an MA at UCT in 1992. It was after this time that the power of laments in alleviating despair became a focus for her and she embarked on her PhD. "There have been several studies of Hebrew laments, but most examine them as a response to catastrophe or for their literary merit. I wanted to look at them instead from the perspective of their power to alleviate despair," Dison-Kaplan said.

The thesis analyses and examines the characteristics of laments in the Hebrew original and includes the Book of Lamentations, David's lament over Saul and Jonathan, the payyetanim, the Poets of the Golden Age of Spain, the Eastern European Enlightenment and 20th century poems, including Holocaust poetry and some poems from South Africa, illustrating the universality of the genre.

"Poetic laments are an expression of sorrow, fulfilling a human need to share loss with fellow humans and are the oldest form of poetry we know, from as far back as Mesopotamian times," she added.

Paying tribute to those who assisted her, she added, "I have had wonderful support and encouragement from my husband, Elias Kaplan, and my supervisor, Dr Azila Reisenberger."

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