Disenchantment : a critical study of George Steiner's thought on the Holocaust, antisemitism and western culture / by Catherine D. Chatterley.
An internationally renowned literary critic and respected authority on Western culture, George Steiner remains one of the most dedicated commentators on the problem and implications of the Holocaust. Having escaped the Nazi onslaught as a child, Steiner is relentless in arguing that we come after the Holocaust, and, as such, are obligated to work toward an understanding of this tragedy at the heart of Western culture.The dissertation places Steiner's fifty-year project on the Holocaust at the centre of his analysis of Western culture. It argues that the disorienting tragedy of the Shoah determines the trajectory of Steinerian cultural criticism by stimulating his dominant intellectual concerns: the effects of the Holocaust on language and culture, the nature and purpose of the humanities, and the dynamics of Jewish-Gentile relations in Western culture.This work has two major functions. First, it will explain and analyze the trajectory of George Steiner's thought on the Holocaust, antisemitism, and Western culture through the period of aftermath from the 1950s to the present day. Steiner's oeuvre is explained as the product of his own struggle to understand his feelings of ambivalence toward European culture, which he both embraces as a triumph of the human spirit and condemns for its annihilation of European Jewry.Secondly, the dissertation attempts to explain how the Holocaust inflects Steiner's conception of culture and his cultural criticism in general. It is my contention that Steinerian criticism is determined by intellectual concerns that are first stimulated by the Holocaust, and to neglect this dynamic inhibits a better appreciation and deeper understanding of Steiner's work.Overall, the dissertation contends that the work produced by George Steiner over the last five decades is a uniquely important example of the larger Jewish process of coming to terms with the Holocaust during the period of its aftermath.
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