In the name of the (m)other? : articulating an ethics of memory in the post-Holocaust poetry of Nelly Sachs and Rose Ausländer / by Kathrin Maria Bower
Includes bibliographical references (p. 284-305)
Previous studies of Nelly Sachs (1891-1970) and Rose Auslander (1901-1988) have focussed on the influences of German and Jewish cultural traditions in their works and on their positions as Holocaust poets. My study is an investigation of memory and relationality in Sachs's and Auslander's post-Holocaust poetry, examining not only the syntheses and conflicts between German and Jewish traditions, but also the broader implications of their writings for contemporary conceptions of subjectivity, ethics, and community. In Chapter One I address the oppositions and tensions informing the poets' multiple roles as victims, survivors, and witnesses. The poems discussed in this chapter illustrate the dilemma of the poet as survivor and guardian of memory. The conflicting emotions affecting the poet both as a witness and a survivor culminate in a crisis of faith, responding to the historical event that shattered the explanatory limits of traditional religious beliefs. The search for spiritual models capable of responding to the extremity of the Holocaust is discussed in Chapter Two. Here the representation of the Mother as an unresolved duality of good and terrible offers an alternative figuration of cosmic power more adequate to the moral upheaval wrought by the Holocaust. Further, the association of the maternal with otherness and plurality serves as an enabling strategy for giving voice to heterogeneous memory. Through their transformations of memory into poetry, Sachs and Auslander sought to recover the security and community that they had lost. Chapter Three examines the relationship between memory, representation, and agency in their works. By interspersing and contrasting 'I', 'You', 'We', and 'They', both poets illustrate the multiplicity of memory while exercising control over the manner of its preservation. The role of memory in the construction and realization of the self/other relationship is explored in the final chapter. I conclude that Sachs's and Auslander's poetry articulates an ethics of memory and relationality transcending the temporal specificity of the Holocaust. This ethics anticipates a world community, conscious of history and supportive of difference, constituted by individuals aware of their mutual responsibility in the welfare and future of a diverse but shared humanity.
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