In the immediate aftermath of the cataclysmic events of the Shoah, the philosopher and sociologist Theodor W. Adorno interrogated the meaning of 'culture' after the failure of culture. In contemporary discourse, the Shoah has long since been turned into a marketable icon of suffering. Indeed, the encroachment on the victims' memory of what has contentiously been called the 'Holocaust industry’ or, with a gruesome pun, ‘Shoah business’, is frequently perceived as threatening to pervert remembrance of this singular event in history. Ever since Adorno’s often quoted and frequently misunderstood ‘dictum’ that it is barbaric to write poetry ‘after Auschwitz’ (1949), a discussion about the value and the significance of the representation of the Shoah in cultural production has been engaged in. Many of the concerns focused on in this debate remain controversial, among them the questions of the memory of the Shoah and its medial representations, and of the potentially therapeutic value of confronting the emotional trauma of genocide in cultural production.
In this module, students will enter into these debates by enquiring into the ability of narrative, in literature, film and other forms of memorialisation, to represent the ‘unrepresentable’, by exploring the use of these narratives as ‘history’, and by investigating the so-called ‘Americanisation’ of the Shoah. In addition, they will enquire into the historical and cultural contexts of the Shoah.
Total Contact Hours: 40
Method of assessment
• Essay 1 (1,000 words) – 15%
• Essay 2 (2,000 words) – 25%
• Individual Project (1,000 words) – 15%
• Group Project (2,000 words) – 25%
• Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%
Albahari, David. Götz and Meyer, translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac (1998; London: Vintage, 2005).
Auslander, Shalom. Hope: A Tragedy (New York: Riverhead, 2012).
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Everything is Illuminated (2002; London: Penguin, 2003).
Levi, Primo. If This is a Man. The Truce, translated by Stuart Woolf (1947; London: Abacus, 2004).
Michaels, Anne. Fugitive Pieces (1996; London: Bloomsbury, 2009).
Reich, Tova. My Holocaust (2006; New York: Harper, 2008).
Spiegelman, Art. The Complete Maus (1986, 1992; London: Penguin, 2003).
Weiss, Peter. The Investigation, translated by Alexander Gross (1964; London: Marion Boyars, 2010).
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
- Demonstrate thorough knowledge of the cultural contexts out of which nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism emerged in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries;
- Demonstrate critical understanding of the Shoah and its representations in cultural production in its various cultural and historical contexts;
- Theorise the therapeutic effects of literary and artistic representations of traumatic events;
- Confidently identify the reasons for, and the precise nature of, literary and artistic negotiations of memory, remembrance and memorialisation;
- Assertively address theoretical debates on the interrelation of 'fact' and 'fiction' and the nature of 'literature':
- Engage in a detailed discussion of generic definitions of 'Holocaust Literature', the 'Literature of Atrocities', etc.;
- Demonstrate meticulous understanding of the various formal characteristics as well as the literary, artistic and ethical conundrums of representations of the Shoah.
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