Born after memory : repercussions of the Second World War on postwar French Jewish writing : a thesis / presented by Juliette Dickstein.
How does the traumatic history of the Second World War influence a generation of French Jewish writers born in its aftermath? This study analyzes the writings of Patrick Modiano and Henri Raczymow within a larger generational context that includes the work of Alain Finkielkraut, Pierre Goldman, and Anne Rabinovitch. Two broad claims shape this study. The first is that these writers develop an art of memory as a narrative strategy for dealing with their specific condition of absent or ("post") memory. Because these writers have no memory of the War, because they have not suffered what their parents had endured, and because they continue to be haunted by experiences that are not their own, they have no choice but to appeal to their imagination to fill in the missing pieces. This lack of information, paradoxically, marks the commencement of their literary careers. The second claim is that the literature of this post-1945 generation represents a new kind of writing. Neither entirely historical, autobiographical, nor completely fictional, the texts of these authors break down traditional generic boundaries. The dissertation explores the relationship between post-Holocaust writers and Freud's theory of trauma neurosis, the theories and practices of the postwar avant-garde, and also the more recent theories of the postmodern put forth by Fredric Jameson and Linda Hutcheon. This study argues that post-Holocaust writers represent a particular aspect of the postmodern condition, one that introduces the specific historical moment of the Jewish Catastrophe as the traumatic rupture that determines the form and content of their narratives. Jews born in the aftermath of the War struggle to come to terms with the ruins of a history they have not experienced and the trauma of a memory they cannot recall.
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