Audio interview with Ellen and Steve Levine
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Audio interview with Ellen and Steve Levine

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Collection: Activism at The New School oral history program

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Digital Audio
Ellen and Steve Levin were interviewed by Anna Robinson-Sweet on January 7, 2019 at their home in Toronto, Ontario. Both Steve and Ellen are alumni of the New School and went on to have careers in expressive arts therapy. The interview begins with Ellen and Steve recounting their family backgrounds and upbringing in Boston and Brooklyn, respectively. Steve, who grew up in the 1940s, recalls the “shadow” the Holocaust cast on his early life. Both describe their college years: Ellen studied at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, where she first began to develop an interest in social work; Steve attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he majored in Oriental Studies and wrote poetry. He describes feeling alienated from the community at the University of Pennsylvania, which he remembers as being somewhat anti-Semitic. Steve describes his intellectual development during these years, and his growing interest in philosophy, which led him to apply for a PhD at The New School. He recounts the professors he worked with during the early 1960s at The New School, and describes the intellectual culture of the department. After graduating from The New School, Steve talks about moving to Pittsburgh, where he was hired as a professor at Duquesne University. At Duquesne, Steve was active in the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and encouraged his students to join protests against the Vietnam War. Steve says his activism led to a rift with the administration at Duquesne, so in 1968 he decided to return to The New School for a post-doctoral PhD in anthropology. In this section of the interview, Ellen also recounts her post-undergraduate path. She initially moved to Chicago to study social work at the University of Chicago, but was dissatisfied with the insularity of the program and decided to leave the program to pursue a doctorate in philosophy at The New School. Ellen and Steve both discuss their years in the late 1960s at The New School. Ellen describes the rigorous academic atmosphere of the school, and the lack of other women in her department. Steve and Ellen recall meeting at an informal class Steve taught on Martin Heidegger. Steve speaks about his relationship with Stanley Diamond, the professor of anthropology he was working under. Steve recalls Diamond urging his students to organize a student strike and sit-in, after the US bombing of Cambodia in 1970. Ellen talks about how she began to get more involved in the student protests and got arrested as part of a demonstration that shut down Fifth Avenue outside The New School. The pair recount how it was through this organizing that they became involved romantically. Both discuss their memories of the 1970 occupation of The Graduate Faculty building, which Steve was very involved in. Following these actions, a set of New School students, including Ellen and Steve, started a commune in upstate New York in which the pair lived at briefly. They describe this period of their lives as being chaotic, and when Steve was offered a position in an interdisciplinary social sciences program at York University, in Toronto in 1971, they were eager for a break from New York. At the end of the interview the Levines describe their involvement in developing the field of creative arts therapy in Canada and their life in Toronto.
January 7 2019
Related people
Ellen G. Levine (interviewee)
Stephen K. Levine (interviewee)
Anna Robinson-Sweet (interviewer)
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