Writing the Holocaust : the ethics of Holocaust representation / Peter Klaus Steinfeld.
The purpose of this study is to explore the problem of Holocaust representation from the standpoint of the post-Holocaust generation. Holocaust representations can either subvert the potential for complicity that makes oppression possible or leave readers unchallenged in their desire for comfortable distance from the horrific events of the Holocaust. The evil of the Holocaust requires that its representations awaken readers into self-consciousness about their own potential complicity in order to unravel oppressive structures and break the conspiracy of silence. The Holocaust has the potential to challenge basic assumptions about the validity and meaningfulness of Enlightenment values that preceded, and perhaps even made possible, Hitler's rise to power. Some Holocaust scholars yearn for a return to Enlightenment values, in which discerning good from evil was simple and straightforward. Yet such a naïve rehabilitation of Enlightenment values and perspectives will not suffice in a post-Holocaust era, given the ease by which modernism was co-opted by Nazi ideology. Postmodernism offers useful strategies for the reexamination, critique, and deconstruction of taken-for-granted constructions of meaning. Yet the structures of postmodernism make it difficult to engage in moral discernment. Feminist critiques of postmodernism have been astute in uncovering the implications of the neutrality of postmodern thinkers. This project explores some writers who are ethically reflective, willing to confront the complexity of the issue of complicity among perpetrators and victims. They provide a model of the special diligence, sympathetic imagination, and critical self-reflection which is necessary if ethics is to be possible in the moral ambiguity of the postmodern era. An implication of this project is that feminist thinking and postmodern reflection also might be deepened and enriched by the critical self-reflection of the narratives of survivors. This project is grounded deeply in the need for ethical reflection. The post-Holocaust generation is called upon to think actively and to act thoughtfully so as to make connections with the current potential for complicity. While thinking about the Holocaust cannot undo its horrific reality, mindfulness should strive to deconstruct the forces of collaboration and complicity, lest we stand by in silence with those who will again do nothing.
Record last modified: 2018-05-24 14:02:00
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