English 165

Special Topics: Elegy, Mourning, and the Representation of the Holocaust

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2006 Goodman, Kevis
Goodman, Kevis
TTh 2-3:30 103 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

Hamlet; Levi, P.: The Drowned and the Saved; Teichmann, M. and Leder, S., eds.: Truth and Lamentation: Stories and Poems on the Holocaust; Friedlander, S., ed.: Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the Final Solution; plus one or two Course Readers, containing poems by Milton, Wordsworth, Hardy, Yeats, Auden, Bishop, Plath, and others, as well as a number of theoretical and critical essays


"The German critic Theodor Adorno famously commented that it is �barbaric� to continue to write poetry after Auschwitz , that any attempt to convert such suffering into aesthetic images commits an injustice against the victims. Yet as Adorno also acknowledged, such writing has also seemed necessary, for the failure to represent or to transmit the event and its implications can constitute an injustice of another sort. The Holocaust has therefore presented an acute problem within the long history of literary mourning and the elegiac mode in particular, because the elegy, with its special relationship to the ritual of mourning, has negotiated the delicate balance between loss and art since its inception in Greek and Roman pastoral literature.

This seminar has two main parts. [1] We will first establish a background and vocabulary by reading elegiac texts (largely poetry) from different traditions and historical moments; readings in this part include selected pastoral elegies by Theocritus and Virgil, Shakespeare�s Hamlet, elegiac lyrics and narrative poems from the Renaissance to the present, and some psychoanalytic and cultural approaches to mourning. [2] We then move to problems in Holocaust representation and the theorization of trauma, examining short poems by Paul Celan, Dan Pagis, Nelly Sachs, Geoffrey Hill, Anthonty Hecht, and others; prose by Primo Levi, Aharon Appelfeld, and Ida Fink; and also the special genre of testimony, including videotestimony. Throughout this course, we will ask questions about the relationships between writing and loss, mourning and historiography (the writing of history), elegy and trauma, personal grief and communal expression.

Course requirements include regular attendance and informed class participation, plus 2 or 3 essays interpreting the primary literary texts and making use of theoretical texts where appropriate. There may be brief oral reports assigned as well."

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