Socrates in Jerusalem : figuring the banal in Hannah Arendt's Eichmann report / anrew Aaron Fransblow
Includes bibliographical references (p. 78-80)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
This thesis examines the rhetorical significance of Hannah Arendt's report on the trial of Adolf Eichmann: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). I argue that there were, and still are, competing claims on the way this popular trial resonated with for the broader public. The Eichmann report, and in particular Arendt's rhetoric of the banal, was a disturbing challenge to what I describe as the prevailing aesthetic and rhetorical sensibility of Holocaust discourse, which was at this early point in its development predisposed to rhetorics of the sublime. I argue that with this event, these two rhetorical sensibilities would come up against each other, and while the prosecution would attempt to frame the accused as a diabolical personification of evil, Arendt's report figures Eichmann as merely thoughtless. The difficult irony that emerges for her audience is the possibility that the unthinkable could follow from thoughtlessness. Following from this thesis, I will suggest that this negative figuring of Eichmann is intended at the same time to constitute a Socratic ethos in Arendt's audience. That is, an ethos that embraces independent thinking and multiple perspectives. The more general question that Arendt's report continues to raise is what constitutes an acceptable or fitting response to the Holocaust, and I argue that a rhetoric of the banal significantly altered the conditions of Holocaust debate.
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