Unrepeatable : fiction after atrocity / by Daniel Banach Feldman.
Can fiction render truths about catastrophic historic events? This dissertation explores the distinctive insight of Holocaust fiction as a paradigm for portraying historic events of mass atrocity. The dissertation draws on Hebrew, German, and Polish autobiographical fiction written by survivors and eyewitnesses of the Holocaust to argue that creative literature radically transforms cultural responses to mass historic trauma. Rather than attempting to explain or comprehend extreme violence, the most insightful works of Holocaust fiction describe how limited their insight in fact is. Instead of conveying rational understanding, the anti-enlightening poetics of atrocity fiction demonstrate what it means not to understand history, even history one experiences oneself.The dissertation identifies several key motifs of Holocaust and genocide fiction. It shows how survivor-authors effect a splitting of self that complicates the unmediated perspective of a firsthand witness. The dissertation further documents how survivor-authors erase the contextual history of atrocity from their literary portrayals of the past. Finally, Holocaust fiction proposes a new range of relations governing the interplay between historical knowledge and ignorance.This study also offers a new interpretive lens that spans fictional texts written by Jews and non-Jews about the Holocaust—including works by Dan Pagis, Paul Celan, Ida Fink, Aharon Appelfeld, Christa Wolf, and Tadeusz Borowski—and compares those texts with fiction written about more recent atrocities in South America and Africa.
Record last modified: 2018-05-18 16:20:00
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