Functions of humor in German Holocaust literature : Edgar Hilsenrath, Günter Grass, and Jurek Becker / by Jennifer I. Bjornstad.
This study offers a textually based exploration of the functions of humor in three humorous representations of the Holocaust: Edgar Hilsenrath's Der Nazi and der Friseur, Günter Grass's Hundejahre , and Jurek Becker's Jakob der Lügner. The first chapter reviews the scholarship on humor and Holocaust literature and analyzes its notable focus on the question of appropriateness, characterizes literary humor as a alternate approach to representing the tragedy of the Holocaust, and delineates the possible functions of humor in Holocaust literature. Each of the three middle chapters specifies and describes the most prevalent kind of humor used in the novel (mockery in Der Nazi and der Friseur , wordplay in Hundejahre, and wry humor in Jakob der Lügner ), explores the way the humor is manifested, and analyzes the functions the humor performs (thematic, narratological, and epistemological). The mockery that permeates Edgar Hilsenrath's Der Nazi and der Friseur—both as it is experienced and as it is created by the narrator—strengthens the novel's theme of the struggle between creator and creature, aids the narrator in his struggle for narratological dominance, and points to the commonality of human wrongdoing. The wordplay that dominates Günter Grass's Hundejahre—encompassing a great variety of linguistic humor, from the simple pun to a much broader complex of play with words—underscores the theme of the creative impulse, challenges the reader's associative abilities, and calls the stability of identity into question. The wry humor of Jurek Becker's Jakob der Lügner, a kind of composed, acceptant humor based on a subtly ironic stance, strengthens the novel's theme of lying and storytelling, mediates reader response between the extremes of intimacy and distance, and, in the end, suggests that reality is a subjective matter. The fifth chapter explores the reasons for the conspicuous interconnections amongst the themes, narrative approaches, and functions of the humor in the three novels and returns to the question of humor's appropriateness, positing that humor can be a truly earnest and effective approach to the difficult topic of the Holocaust.
Record last modified: 2018-04-24 16:01:00
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