Sem Life Wtng: Holocaust Lit (CSAP/LSE)

In 1949 Theodor Adorno articulated the
warning that “after Auschwitz it is no longer possible to write poetry.” This
statement—variously translated, modified, and interpreted to mean that
imaginative representations of the Holocaust are barbaric–has been pivotal to
discussions of Holocaust representations for over half a century. As survivors
and witnesses are succeeded by second- and third- generation family members who
occupy relational but not witnessing positions, questions of moral authority
acquire new levels of complexity:  Who
has the authority to represent the Holocaust? What aesthetic, philosophical,
and moral issues are at stake as direct witness testimony to the Holocaust of
World War II becomes extinct?  How do
these issues intersect, if at all, with recent work in trauma studies and
trauma theory?

This seminar will use the dialectical tensions in
Adorno’s writings to establish a basis for understanding issues involved in
representing the Holocaust from documentary genres to imaginative literature.
If we understand Adorno not to be advocating severe generic restrictions, but
powerfully calling for modes of expression that inescapably bear witness to a
failure in representing the “unrepresentable,” are poetry and all varieties of
expressive literature justifiable and indeed perhaps indispensable? How do we
now assess the outpouring of not just poetry, but novels, short stories, plays,
children’s literature, graphic comics, and film comedies about the Holocaust?

We’ll begin with witnesses’ texts such as Wiesel’s Night and Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz). Then we’ll examine second-generation work
for which Marianne Hirsch’s term, “post-memory,” has been widely utilized. Finally,
we’ll read third-generation contemporary literature for its post post-mnemonic
contexts and rationales. Throughout the semester we’ll be engaged in debates on
witnessing and relational witnessing; trauma and
memory; memory and performance; historical fictions and fictitious
witnessing; the Holocaust relative to other manifestations of racism and
genocides; and philosophical and ethical questions concerning the responsibilities
that this literature imposes on readers.


–Oral presentations on assigned
readings and tours
online sites (US Holocaust Museum, Berlin Jewish Museum; Yale Video
Archives for Holocaust Testimonies; Yad Vashem, Simon Wiesenthal Center (10%)

-Midterm essay with annotated

–Seminar project and oral presentation (60%)

Texts Selected from the Following:

Paul Celan (poetry); Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz
and After
; Philippe Claudel, Brodeck;
Nathan Englander, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank”; Anne
Frank, Diary; Heinz Heger, The Men
with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the
Death Camps;
Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz; Andre
Schwartz-Bart, Last of the Just
Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl; Nicole Kraus, The History of Love;
Anne Michael, Fugitive Pieces
Art Spiegelman, Maus I and II;Elie Wiesel, Night;Doug Wright, I Am My Own


Additional Readings Selected from the Following:

Adorno, Negative Dialectics; Dora Apel, Memory Effects: The Holocaust
and the Art of Secondary Witnessing
; Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experiencey;
Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Testimony; Marianne Hirsch, Family
; Sara Horowitz, Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in
Holocaust Fiction
; Dominick LaCapra, Representing the Holocaust;Lawrence Langer, Admitting the Holocaust;Alan Mintz, Popular
Culture and the Shaping of Holocaust Memory in America;
Cynthia Ozick, “The
Rights of Fiction and the Rights of Imagination”;Emmanuel
Ringelblum, Journal from the Warsaw Ghetto; Michael
Rothberg, “After Adorno: Culture in the Wake of Catastrophe.”