Textual silence : unreadability and the Holocaust / Jessica Lang
- New Brunswick, New Jersey : Rutgers University Press, 
Includes bibliographical references (pages 181-208) and index
"There are thousands of books that represent the Holocaust, but can, and should, the act of reading these works convey the events of genocide to those who did not experience it? In Textual Silence, literary scholar Jessica Lang asserts that language itself is a barrier between the author and the reader in Holocaust texts--and that this barrier is not a lack of substance, but a defining characteristic of the genre. Holocaust texts, which encompass works as diverse as memoirs, novels, poems, and diaries, are traditionally characterized by silences the authors place throughout the text, both deliberately and unconsciously. While a reader may have the desire and will to comprehend the Holocaust, the presence of "textual silence" is a force that removes the experience of genocide from the reader's analysis and imaginative recourse. Lang defines silences as omissions that take many forms, including the use of italics and quotation marks, ellipses and blank pages in poetry, and the presence of unreliable narrators in fiction. While this limits the reader's ability to read in any conventional sense, these silences are not flaws. They are instead a critical presence that forces readers to acknowledge how words and meaning can diverge in the face of events as unimaginable as those of the Holocaust"-- Provided by publisher.
"Explores the tension between the will and desire to read and our ultimate inability to do so as it applies to Holocaust literature. I have chosen to focus on Holocaust literature first, perhaps more than any other literary genre or category, questions about Holocaust representation--how we write, draw, narrate, exhibit, present, speak about that event--beginning with the very fact that so much representation exists, have been thoughtfully and determinedly examined by survivors, authors, scholars, artists and others. However, questions of how that representation is processed, or for this book, how representations are read, have received little attention. Second, the presence of the unreadable is made all the more pointed and powerful as more time imposes itself between the actual historical moment in history that Holocaust texts refer to and the act of reading. We as contemporary readers must recognize that the body of Holocaust texts is gradually taking the place of the body of the eyewitness. The sentiment expressed by so many survivors, that language is insufficient to describe their experiences, can, should be and very much is part of the reading experience. That is, a relationship exists--this book explores it--between the limitations of representation in terms of expression by an author and the limits of understanding or processing on the part of a reader. Textual Silence uncovers the literary gaps or silences within texts that impose limitations on the act of reading"-- Provided by publisher.
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