English 100

Junior Seminar: The Holocaust and the Postmodern

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
17 Fall 2006 Liu, Sarah
TTh 3:30-5 259 Dwinelle

Other Readings and Media

Camus, Albert: The Plague; Delbo, Charlotte: Auschwitz and After; Levi, Primo: If This is a Man, The Drowned and the Saved; Levi, Neil and Michael Rothberg, ed.: The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings; Spiegelman, Art: Maus I and II; Wilkomirski, Binjamin: Fragments; and a course reader


This course focuses on the deep interconnections between the Holocaust and Western culture and thought. Postmodernism begins as a response to the Holocaust, not rejecting rationality but acknowledging its limits, basing humanism on a sense of fundamentally fragile, corporeal existence, echoing the Shoah in traumatized, melancholy, mournfully elegiac discourses. Those ways of thinking offer new perspectives in our understanding of the historical event and its aftermath. We will study the relation between events of the Holocaust and the central issues of postmodernism: the �traumatic� nature of entry into language, the �trace� structure of inscription in relation to inaccessible presence, the danger of an aesthetics that valorizes the unrepresentable. How much freedom or poetic license does art have when dealing with events that are not dead or neutral ? How can art avoid a �redemptive� narrative, instead acknowledging the Shoah�s traumatic nature? How far can the Holocaust be understood and what might we take the human to be in its aftermath? Reading includes texts of testimony (Delbo and Levi), memory, postmemory, and identity (Spiegelman and Wilkomirski), Holocaust fiction (Camus and Schlink), and philosophical thought (Adorno, Levinas, Lyotard).

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