Intro to Lit: Genre

Life Writing and the Holocaust

How should the Holocaust be remembered? As the generation of survivors continues to age, we will soon face an era in which no living witnesses of the Shoah are left among us. What is the responsibility of second and third generations to this history? To what extent can we rely on oral histories and family memories as the second and third generation writers piece together narratives of their own? What can emerging popular genres, such as graphic novels, contribute to this conversation? In this course, students will read well-known memoirs of first generation survivors as well as lesser-known work by descendants of Holocaust survivors attempting to contend with their family histories. This course will raise questions about autobiographical writing and (inherited) trauma, the politics of memory, and the problematics associated with re-discovering and re-presenting human suffering and acts of evil.


Elie Wiesel. Night. Art Spiegelman. Maus I and II. Ellen Friedman. The Seven: A Family Holocaust Story

Selections from:

Marianne Hirsch. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust. Michael R. Marrus.  Lessons of the Holocaust


Students will write a reading responses to each assigned text. The reading responses will alternatively take the form of rhetorical analysis, literary analysis, or creative nonfiction. In addition, students will read a holocaust memoir of their choosing and write a scholarly analysis of their chosen text that they present to the class. Finally, students will embark on a research and writing project of their own design related to Holocaust studies and nonfiction writing.

Student Learning Outcomes:

This course will help students to use the skills of literary, rhetorical and or cultural analysis they acquired in their first-year English course with increased proficiency by continuing to teach students how to analyze the significance of cultural, biographical, historical, and/or philosophical contexts. Students will deepen their understanding of the complexity of differentiating between fact and fiction and of determining reliability in self-disclosure and self-censorship. They will deepen their understanding of the central role of confession in life writing as well as the roles of memory and language play in the construction of meaning and identity.