After Representation?: The Holocaust, Literature, and by R. Clifton Spargo, R. Clifton Spargo, Robert M. Ehrenreich

By R. Clifton Spargo, R. Clifton Spargo, Robert M. Ehrenreich

After illustration? explores one of many significant matters in Holocaust studies--the intersection of reminiscence and ethics in creative expression, relatively inside of literature.

As specialists within the examine of literature and tradition, the students during this assortment learn the moving cultural contexts for Holocaust illustration and display how writers--whether they write as witnesses to the Holocaust or at an imaginitive distance from the Nazi genocide--articulate the shadowy borderline among truth and fiction, among occasion and expression, and among the situation of lifestyles persevered in atrocity and the wish of a significant lifestyles. What creative literature brings to the learn of the Holocaust is a capability to check the boundaries of language and its conventions. After illustration? strikes past the suspicion of illustration and explores the altering that means of the Holocaust for various generations, audiences, and contexts.

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It promotes an allegory of reading such that we are supposed to improve on the sister’s actions and by our improvement reconstitute the world of culture that begins now, or here renews itself, on the merits of attending to this very story before us. Where culture fails, if only as a hypothetical world beyond the camp in which the suffering of the victims might be heard and found deserving of some response, the bad dream of Auschwitz endures. Levi is not so presumptuous as to imagine that in Auschwitz his own private thoughts, even the contents of his dreams, could refer only to himself, to a simple worry about whether, if he survives, he will be listened to or not.

Such a formulation returns us to literature as the utmost sign of culture’s contrivances, of its design on present belief as also on our conceptions of the past. Much as Friedländer worries that the catastrophic historical event once realized in narrative necessarily attains an aspect of redemption, as though it were again or newly beholden to a repairing continuity, we may feel that literature’s expressive continuity and culture’s self-sustaining, often callous renewability represent the space of rupture as all too brief and ephemeral.

A collective “written-in-advance biography” (to cite Govrin), with many obligatory stages and a divine covenant, has held sway over Jewish lives and has also been claimed by other peoples.  A devout or profane imitatio, a role-playing akin to what takes place in theater or fiction, is present in every life from childhood on. The line that is supposed to distinguish between factual and fictive versions of truth becomes a 25 GEOFFREY HARTMAN 26 battleground precisely because a distinction that must be made is often difficult to make.

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