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To survive outside the law : the testimonial communities of Holocaust survivors / by Kitty Judith Millet.

Publication | Library Call Number: D804.7 .M55 1996

This interdisciplinary dissertation reflects on humanist scholarship's failure to analyze Holocaust survivor testimony. I give the reason for this failure in the introduction: the unique purposiveness of survivor testimony conflicts with the general purposiveness of testimony to serve communal interests. To illustrate how testimony subscribes to communal interests, I explore its use from the pre-Socratics to modernity. Modernity's codification of testimony as an object of knowledge, which conforms to the expectations of rule-based judgments, indicates that testimony is judicially-centered rather than victim-centered. But the purposiveness of survivor testimony orders its testimony to be victim-centered. The survivor's centrality to this purposiveness presupposes an ethics in which survivors are both victims and witnesses; thus they retain a personal interest in their testimonies. This duality fails legal protocols and produces aberrant and "incredible" testimonies. To become credible, the witness jettisons the victim's personal interest because it invalidates the witness. Therefore, the first chapter unites modernity's "rules of evidence" with the categorization of testimony as personal memory. Testimonies become necessarily fallible because they derive from a flawed faculty. However, survivors' case studies contradict this supposition: survivors' memories are vivid, dynamic, and incontrovertible. The survivors have been marked indelibly as victims of the Nazis. The produced testimonies are, then, both for the witness and for the victim. Because of this dual purposiveness, the survivor calls for an interlocutor who can hear the testimony. The second and third chapters examine this call through the works of Jean Amery and Primo Levi. Since the call is unconditioned, it can become a risk if the interlocutor rejects the survivor's purposiveness. Thus Levi demands "an ethics of witness." In the last chapters, I describe this ethics by comparing Shoshana Felman's theory of bearing witness to survivor testimony. Felman fails the survivor because she substitutes an observer's purposiveness for the survivor's. Therefore, I conclude that interlocutors forfeit the reimagination of survivor testimony for its remembrance.

Millet, Kitty Judith.
Record last modified: 2018-05-29 16:28:00
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