A path through the abyss : re-inventing testimony through post-Holocaust survivor poetry, memoir, and video oral histoires / by Leah A. Wolfson.
This dissertation seeks to redefine post-Holocaust survivor testimony through both literary and archival sources. The project explores a variety of genres and linguistic traditions including: Modern Hebrew poetry, French memoir writing, and video-testimony. The writers or speakers generate a language that stems from both their particular cultural heritage and the post-war environment. At the same time, each witness deconstructs his or her own discourse in order to describe an unprecedented event. Ultimately, the project explores how the dynamics of history, language, and memory interact in order to form what we call "testimony." Chapter One embarks on a series of close-readings and original translations of Hebrew poet Abba Kovner. Through a reformulation of Classical and Modern Hebrew, he radicalizes the status and experience of the survivor and resistance fighter in the post-war era. This chapter situates Kovner's poetry amongst its Biblical antecedents and uses German poet Paul Celan as a major intertext. Chapter Two explores similar issues through the narrative testimony of French writers Robert Antelme, Sarah Kofman, and Charlotte Delbo. Each of these writers challenges the French national narrative that all of France stood united in resistance to Nazi terror. Chapter Three combines these two genres with an exploration of the audio-visual testimony of the University of Southern California Shoah Visual History Archive (SVHA). This section explores how songs (lyric poetry) interrupt an otherwise controlled interview process and introduce highly personalized memory and meaning. Thus, through a consideration of the interruptions and discontinuities of the text or archive, I argue that the poetry, narrative, and audio-visual carve out a new position for themselves in between literature and history. The reader as interpreter must negotiate the implications of such narratives that attempt to find, as the title suggests, "a path through the abyss." Finally, this project interrogates what it might mean to read and interpret these texts as they quickly become the "last survivor" of a history they were not meant to survive.
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:20:00
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