Philip Roth considered : the concentrationary universe of the American writer / Steven Milowitz.
The dissertation comprehensively surveys Philip Roth's published and unpublished works, focusing on the thematic unity which binds them together; the memory of the Holocaust and the altered universe born of that memory. The Holocaust is understood as the orienting event for Roth's fiction and non-fiction, the force which surrounds the characters and the narratives at all times. Roth's obsession with the Holocaust explains his recurring discussion of entrapment, dehumanization, nihilism, ideology, powerlessness, guilt, coercion, and memory. Roth's concentrationary universe is defined as both the universe of the camps and the universe which exists after the devastation. Moral and philosophical norms are revoked in this new world. Roth's early works are presented on a desolate landscape. The introduction explicates this landscape and offers clues to the reasons for the writer's bleak vision. Specifically, the chapter invokes an early play of Roth's, a play which is set in a Jewish ghetto during the Holocaust. This unpublished work introduces the historical period that shapes the attitudes and visions of Roth's future protagonists. The next three chapters study Roth's relentless excavation of the dilemmas of fathers, mothers, and authority figures, and the inner discord of need and purpose. These seemingly quotidian problems are exacerbated and intensified by the Holocaust's shadowy presence. No relationship, no effort at fulfillment, no action is untempered by history in Roth's varied fictions. Chapters four and five look directly at Roth's allusions to the Holocaust. They explore, through each of Roth's works, how the Holocaust-thematic - the play of ideology and nihilism - and the Holocaust-pattern - the idea of the past encroaching upon the present - work through Roth's career, informing his readers not only of his fascination with the Holocaust but of his particularly human way of dealing with it. The last chapter briefly summarizes the findings of the previous chapters and connects Roth's specific concentrationary universe to the larger world. The tropes of Roth's novels are suggested, and they point to Roth's celebration of ambiguity and individuality. Roth's impressionistic style and philosophy are revealed as his tentative means of writing and living in the debased aftermath of the Holocaust.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
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