Messianic commitment : hope and the Holocaust in Jurek Becker's Jakob der Lügner and Peter Weiss' Die Ermittlung / Renate Falk Cammin.
How does hope figure in the literary representation of the Holocaust? In particular, how does Holocaust literature reconcile the dichotomy between the devalued notion of progress underlying the modern conception of hope and hope's insistent presence in the face of overwhelming despair? To raise the issue of hope appears inflammatory within the already contentious academic debate on the limits of Holocaust representation, yet this dissertation maintains that hope, though irrelevant within the context of the historical event, remains resilient for the production and consumption of its subsequent representation. Literary texts, as an integral part to the humanistic tradition, are compelled to negotiate the striking dissonance between the portrayal of the hope-impoverished world of the Shoah, this massive violation of humanistic ideals, and the notion of hope with its ensuing tendency toward redemption.This dissertation analyzes the engagement of hope in Jurek Becker's Jacob der Lügner and Peter Weiss' Die Ermittlung. Employing a method that is literary-critical and phenomenological, the research engages the philosophical and theoretical texts of Ernst Bloch, Gabriel Marcel, Walter Benjamin, Elie Wiesel, Laurence Langer, Joseph J. Godfrey, Jayne M. Waterworth and Tom Moylan, among others. Aesthetically, this essay argues that literary representation of past injustices and suffering of which the Holocaust is one of histories most egregious examples labors under the claim for messianic mediation between the traumatic past and the future. The insistent presence of hope in response to the experience of despair compels a tendentiously redemptive representation. Rhetorically, this essay argues that both Becker and Weiss' influential texts on the Holocaust deconstructed not only the respective self-serving, official historiographies pervasive in East and West Germany at the time of the works production but also the socially condoned practices of hope that arose from the respective forms of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. By reshaping historical memory, both texts implicitly offer alternative perspectives on how and what to hope for in regard to the future.
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