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After Representation?

After Representation?: The Holocaust, Literature, and Culture

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    After Representation?
    Book Description:

    After Representation?explores one of the major issues in Holocaust studiesùthe intersection of memory and ethics in artistic expression, particularly within literature.As experts in the study of literature and culture, the scholars in this collection examine the shifting cultural contexts for Holocaust representation and reveal how writersùwhether they write as witnesses to the Holocaust or at an imaginative distance from the Nazi genocideùarticulate the shadowy borderline between fact and fiction, between event and expression, and between the condition of life endured in atrocity and the hope of a meaningful existence. What imaginative literature brings to the study of the Holocaust is an ability to test the limits of language and its conventions.After Representation?moves beyond the suspicion of representation and explores the changing meaning of the Holocaust for different generations, audiences, and contexts.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4815-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: On the Cultural Continuities of Literary Representation
    (pp. 1-22)

    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 about the Holocaust might begin, which is to say, there is no way of speaking about the Holocaust in books except from within a state of historically conditioned anxiety about...

  5. PART ONE Is the Holocaust Still to Be Written?

    • 1 The Holocaust, History Writing, and the Role of Fiction
      (pp. 25-40)

      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 difference—by an editorial and canonical process.

      We cannot get back to a hypothetical original version of the historic or mythic events. Nor can we know exactly what harmonizing of sources occurred during the process of transmission and canonization. The events described by the main narrative line—the generic Jewish biography, as...

    • 2 Nostalgia and the Holocaust
      (pp. 41-58)

      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 stable, less tenuous conditions of anchoring, of home” (197). Born in Cracow to Polish Jewish survivors of the Shoah and brought to western Canada as an adolescent, Hoffman struggled...

    • 3 Death in Language: From Madoʹs Mourning to the Act of Writing
      (pp. 59-74)

      InLe convoi du24 Janvier, Charlotte Delbo, a survivor of Auschwitz, provides a historical gloss on the catastrophic fate of “Mado,” one of the 230 women deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on that date:

      Mado …

      She was coming directly from the depot when she met the convoy going to Compiègne on January 23rd in 1943, the evening before the departure. While handing out the bread for the trip, Marie-Elisa saw the new arrival and asked her for her name: “Mado.” No doubt, she was with a group in a railcar from which no one escaped. No doubt, she died within...

    • 4 Oskar Rosenfeld and Historiographic Realism (including Sex, Shit, and Status)
      (pp. 75-86)

      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 inMetahistoryfor historiography as a form of writing causally intertwined with the traditional projects of historical explanation and/or a search for theeigentlichhas survived the many attacks directed against it.¹ This conclusion holds, I believe,...

  6. PART TWO A Question for Aesthetics?

    • 5 Nazi Aesthetics in Historical Context
      (pp. 89-98)

      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 may have literarily cast similar events the day before in letters, diaries, or chronicles. As the best new historical work on the Holocaust also makes clear, we can no longer divorce the Nazi-perpetrators’ representations of their victims from...

    • 6 Writing Ruins: The Anachronistic Aesthetics of André Schwarz-Bart
      (pp. 99-118)

      In the concluding lines of André Schwarz-Bart’s novelA Woman Named Solitude(La Mulatresse 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 his novel of Holocaust and Jewish history,The Last of the Just(Le Dernier des Justes, 1959).² In the wake of the surprising success of that prize-winning novel, Schwarz-Bart, in collaboration with his Guadeloupean wife, Simone...

    • 7 “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem”: The Poetry of Forgetful Memory in Israel and Palestine
      (pp. 119-134)

      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 makes this claim in part because the violence wrought on history will have an effect upon the language of history itself, and in part because the aesthetic effect of poetic or fictional language more...

  7. PART THREE How Does Culture Influence Memory?

    • 8 The Holocaust and the Economy of Memory, from Bellow to Morrison (The Technique of Figurative Allegory)
      (pp. 137-178)

      “In this century, so agonizing to the Jews,” wrote Saul Bellow in his introduction to the 1963 volumeGreat 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 sellerExodus, Bellow briefly considered whether “survivors of Hitler’s terror in Europe and Israel” might deserve only good publicity from writers, before rejecting the notion on literary grounds. “In literature we cannot accept a...

    • 9 “And in the Distance You Hear Music, a Band Playing”: Reflections on Chaos and Order in Literature and Testimony
      (pp. 179-189)

      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 life, he sighed, “Ohh, it was [pause] happiness.” As he talked, the idealistic patina gave way to a more realistic description filled with love and antagonism, fear and joy, childhood memories that encompassed...

    • 10 Reading Heart of Darkness after the Holocaust
      (pp. 190-209)

      There is an unavoidableNachträglichkeit(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 Bartov’s insight about the temporality of our reflections on the Holocaust has been realized by a number of contemporary historians who have taken concepts from the well-developed historiography of the Holocaust and, with due caution, used them to illuminate genocides, atrocities, and...

    • 11 Theorizing the Perpetrator in Bernhard Schlinkʹs The Reader and Martin Amisʹs Timeʹs Arrow
      (pp. 210-230)

      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 aesthetic pleasure the reader (or spectator) experiences upon contemplating works of art that portray physical suffering: “the so-called artistic representation of the sheer physical pain of people being beaten to the ground by rifle-butts contains, however remotely, the power to elicit...

    (pp. 231-234)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 235-242)