After Representation? The Holocaust, Literature, and Culture
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
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The generation of scholars who first focused on an emerging canon of Holocaust literature—figures such as George Steiner, Lawrence L. Langer, Alvin H. Rosenfeld, and Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi—were faced with the task of defining what Holocaust literature might be. Although this task was initially accomplished by a process of exclusion, asking a series of questions framed ...
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A Holocaust literature that took its imperatives from the existential conditions of the camps would begin always as at the end of culture, in a world of dying, degradation, and atrocity wherein all books and learning exist but as a faint memory of what it meant to be human in some other time, some other place. For Elie Wiesel, there is in fact no other condition from which a literature ...
1: The Holocaust, History Writing, and the Role of Fiction
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Once upon a time, history and legend formed a single, relatively consistent narrative. Consistent, at least, after a period of redaction and centuries of interpretation. Hebrew Scripture may have started as a diverse bundle of oral or written traditions, but these were unified—not without leaving traces of ...
2: Nostalgia and the Holocaust
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In her 1989 memoir of exile and acculturation, Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language (1989),1 Eva Hoffman reflects on her status as an immigrant to North America: “One of the ways in which I continue to know that I’m not completely assimilated is through my residual nostalgia—which many of my friends find a bit unseemly, as if I were admitting to a shameful weakness—for the more ...
3: Death in Language
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... The interplay between departure and arrival in this biographical narrative describes Mado’s anonymous death and disappearance in the context of what David Rousset first called “l’univers concentrationnaire” of the camps. Mado’s death is recorded as absolute, and yet her voice would return afterward, in Delbo’s own literary voice, as an afterimage conveying the death-in-survival ...
4: Oskar Rosenfeld and Historiographic Realism
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There is nothing startling by now in the claim of a role for style in writing (or reading) history, but most working historians would probably still vote against it, the more so if the claim included Hayden White’s conception of historical discourse as based on emplotments shaped by literary figuration or tropes. Votes, however, are not arguments, and the case that White presented in ...
5: Nazi Aesthetics in Historical Context
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As is clear from the abundant literary and historical study of the victims’ diaries and memoirs, it is impossible to separate what might be called these works’ “aesthetic logic” from the victims’ very real historical and practical understanding of events as they unfolded. That is, the victims’ responses to contemporaneous events in the ghettos and camps were often shaped by how they ...
6: Writing Ruins
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In the concluding lines of André Schwarz-Bart’s novel A Woman Named Solitude (La Mulâtresse Solitude, 1972), the narrator recalls the “humiliated ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto” while describing the site of a failed Caribbean slave revolt.1 Schwarz-Bart, who died on September 30, 2006, was a French Jew of Polish origin who lost his family in the Nazi genocide and who remains best known for ...
7: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem”
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Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi wrote over two decades ago about the curious disjunction of memory and history in the years leading up to the middle of the twentieth century in Jewish culture, claiming that if history and memory were to meet in the years following the Shoah, the discursive field in which they might intersect would be not history but fiction (and, one could add, poetry). He ...
8: The Holocaust and the Economy of Memory, from Bellow to Morrison
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“In this century, so agonizing to the Jews,” wrote Saul Bellow in his introduction to the 1963 volume Great Jewish Short Stories, many people thought it wrong to insist as he did “on maintaining the distinction between public relations and art.” Defending his preference for stories by a young Philip Roth, several of which treated Jews unpleasantly, over documentary work such as Leon Uris’s 1959 best .....
9: “And in the Distance You Hear Music, a Band Playing”
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When I asked my friend Abe P. to describe his prewar life in Betclan, Transylvania, he at first seemed urgently driven to discuss his arrival in Auschwitz. His response to “What was life like in Betclan before the war?” was a quickly delivered positive scenario followed by the coming of the Hungarians and the train. But as we slowly returned to a more detailed description of that ...
10: Reading Heart of Darkness after the Holocaust
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There is an unavoidable Nachträglichkeit (indignity) in reading after the Holocaust. As Omer Bartov writes, the Holocaust has “projected its impact both forward and backward in time, an explosion of destructive energy at the heart of Western civilization that compels us to rethink our assumptions about the nature of humanity and culture, history and progress, politics and morality.”1 ...
11: Theorizing the Perpetrator in Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow
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Since Theodor W. Adorno’s original dictum in 1949 about the supposed barbarity of writing poetry “after Auschwitz,” debates over the ethics of literary representation of the Holocaust have revolved around the problems inherent in depicting, in particular, the suffering of the victims and survivors. Adorno later linked his misgivings about poetry after the Holocaust to his objection to the ...
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Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2010