Between Hollywood and Auschwitz : reading postmodern Holocaust literature in the context of mass culture / by Menachem Feuer
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Many postmodern works of Holocaust literature have not received a proper reading. This study examines how Holocaust criticism has, for the last few decades, either misread this work or altogether neglected it because of biases inherited from modernist literature and literary criticism. After establishing this, it constructs a postmodern framework that can be used for reading these texts.The first chapter of the dissertation begins by foregrounding the postmodern through a historicization of modernism. By doing this, the chapter makes it evident how economic, social and cultural changes have altered art and perception, and how these changes helped to erase the fine line drawn by modernists between mass culture and high culture. One of the main characteristics of this erasure (and of postmodernism) is, according to Fredric Jameson, the oscillation of shock and mildness. The chapter points out how Holocaust criticism resists this and appeals to the category of the sublime and shock, rather than to the beautiful (often characterized by mildness). The chapter makes a close reading of Lyotard's interpretation of Kant's notion of the sublime and how he repudiates the beautiful. Steve Shaviro's rereading of beauty is cited as a counter to this interpretation. Since the beautiful is a central category of mass culture and the postmodern, it is included within a new framework for approaching postmodern Holocaust literature. In the new framework, the sublime is retained, yet in a way that puts it in juxtaposition with the beautiful. This construction draws on Jameson's notion mentioned above.The second chapter shows how Holocaust critics make use of the sublime and trauma studies in their reading of Holocaust film, testimony, and literature. This insistence on the sublime, at the exclusion of the beautiful and the mass cultural, demonstrates how a postmodern approach is lacking in their work. The last three chapters provide readings of the postmodern Holocaust work of David Grossman, Raymond Federman, and Walter Abish. These readings express the relevance of appropriating mass culture in relation to the Holocaust and how such an appropriation discloses the juxtaposition of the sublime and the beautiful.
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