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Reckoning with ghosts : second generation Holocaust literature and the labor of remembrance / by Michelle A. Friedman.

Publication | Library Call Number: PN56.H55 F753 2001

This dissertation examines American literature written by the second generation—children of Holocaust survivors and their Jewish contemporaries—and considers the role these texts play in the cultural and intergenerational transmission of memory. Building on current scholarship (Saul Friedlander, Geoffrey Hartman, Andreas Huyssen, James E. Young, Yael Zerubavel), which argues that it is impossible to know the Holocaust except through various forms of representation and by means of narrative interpretation, I assert that what we can know about the Holocaust continues to emerge even in literature and art produced by those whose knowledge of this traumatic history emerges not from experience but from imagination, and not from memory but from the experience of living with memory. The writers, film-makers, and artists whose work I read (Shimon Attie, Melvin J. Bukiet, Helen Epstein, Irena Klepfisz, Abraham Ravett, Steven Reich, Thane Rosenbaum, Julie Salamon, Art Spiegelman) contribute to our ongoing understanding of this traumatic past. In their narratives, they reveal the ways the Holocaust has shifted, and continues to shift, our cultural consciousness and our understanding of the present. They do so, primarily, by engaging in a process I call, after Andreas Huyssen, the labor of remembrance. This labor entails representing and reflecting on the complicated relationship the second generation possesses to memory and to history; and, this labor allows these writers and artists to articulate their struggles to position themselves in relation to the Holocaust without simplifying or erasing its complexities. In these texts, the second generation wrestles with what it means to remember the Holocaust at this point in time and what it means to remember the Holocaust here, in America, a place which itself is haunted by the traumatic histories native to this landscape.

Friedman, Michelle A. (Michelle Ann), 1963-
Record last modified: 2018-05-16 16:14:00
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