Comedy of terrors : humor and truth in Holocaust fiction and film / Adam Rovner.
This dissertation investigates the complex relationship between humor and truth-telling in Holocaust fiction and film. My research draws parallels between the rhetoric of deception and the rhetoric of humor, and accounts for the convergence of these narrative strategies in disparate Holocaust texts. Much of the Western philosophic tradition has considered both deception and humor to be harmful, irrational, and irresponsible. However, humor and deception have frequently been represented as ethically ambiguous within Holocaust literature and cinema. A survey of the primary philosophical objections to humor and deception highlights the clash between the ethics and aesthetics of Holocaust representation. My research targets: (1) the ways lying and laughter are imagined as ethical responses within the texts, as well as (2) the ways these two aspects may complicate an ethical encounter with the Holocaust as it is apprehended by works of the imagination.Narrative expressions of humor have a particular power to destabilize our conceptions of appropriate ethical responses to extreme experience. The issues my work explores are illustrated by analyses of texts in English (Martin Amis's Time's Arrow, Alan Isler's The Prince of West End Avenue, & Leslie Epstein's King of the Jews), Hebrew (Yoram Kaniuk's Adam Resurrected & A. B. Yehoshua's Mr. Mani), and Yiddish (Rachmil Bryks's A Cat in the Ghetto ). Recent popular films (Roberto Benigni's Life is Beautiful and Peter Kassovitz's Jakob the Liar) are also considered in detail. The goal of this project is to suggest if and on what grounds humor may be viewed as a rational and ethical response to the Holocaust.
Record last modified: 2018-05-16 16:15:00
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