Special Issue "The Literary Response to the Holocaust"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Literature in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 January 2021).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. David Patterson
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies, Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Texas at Dallas, 800 W. Campbell Road, Richardson, Texas 75080-3021, USA
Interests: literary and philosophical response to the Holocaust; antisemitism; modern Jewish thought

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Elie Wiesel once said: “The ultimate mystery of the Holocaust is that whatever happened took place in the soul.” Inasmuch as poetry is the language of the soul, we must engage the literary response to the Holocaust if we are to sound its depths.

The purpose of “The Literary Response to the Holocaust”, a Special Issue of the journal Humanities, is to explore new avenues of understanding this event that eludes understanding.  The overarching questions defining this special edition are: (1) How does the literary response to the Holocaust give voice to the ineffable aspect of the Holocaust? (2) What sets Holocaust literature apart from the traditional parameters of literary genres? (3) What are the generational implications of the literary response to the Holocaust for the testimonial remembrance of the Holocaust?

These are questions that not only arise from the existing, substantial scholarship on the literary response to the Holocaust, but that also take that scholarship to another level. It ranges from Irving Halperin’s study of 1970 Messengers of the Dead to my own The Holocaust and the Nonrepresentable (2018). The aim of this Special Issue is to take the next step in our understanding of the Holocaust and the testimony of Holocaust literature.

Scholars are invited to submit abstracts for articles dealing with Holocaust poetry, fiction, drama, memoirs, and diaries, as well as pieces addressing matters of representation, memory, and other theoretical aspects of the literary response to the Holocaust.

Abstracts of 150–200 words, along with 150–200-word bios, should be submitted by 15 July 2020. Completed articles of 5000–7000 words should be submitted by 1 January 2021.

Prof. Dr. David Patterson
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Holocaust
  • literature
  • testimony
  • remembrance
  • generations

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

Article
The Jew Uncut: Circumcising Holocaust Representation in Europa Europa
Humanities 2021, 10(2), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10020064 - 07 Apr 2021
Viewed by 438
Abstract
Film adaptations invariably yield insights into their written source material, at least to the extent that they elect to translate or omit what may be deemed the literature’s essential components. This is certainly the case for director Agnieszka Holland’s 1990 film, Europa Europa [...] Read more.
Film adaptations invariably yield insights into their written source material, at least to the extent that they elect to translate or omit what may be deemed the literature’s essential components. This is certainly the case for director Agnieszka Holland’s 1990 film, Europa Europa, which adapts Solomon Perel’s account of surviving the Shoah. By drawing on discourse in Holocaust studies and adaptation studies, and by examining the film adaptation’s points of alignment with what Perel records in his memoir, I argue that Europa Europa resists the dominant trend of de-Judaizing the Shoah in artistic representation. Europa Europa privileges explicitly Jewish content and an unmistakably Jewish point of view by focusing on the theme of circumcision. In doing so, the film succeeds in highlighting how the Shoah was, at its core, a campaign to annihilate not just the Jewish people, but also the longstanding principle of the Jewish covenant with the Eternal, as embodied by circumcision. Through its cutting and reshaping of the memoir’s details, Holland’s film seeks to establish a covenant with the viewer to bear witness to the Jewish spirit of the survivor’s testimony. The film presents a model for representing the Holocaust in art, a model that masterfully defies the de-Judaization of society that the Nazis envisioned and tried to make real. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
“Die Grenzen des Sagbaren”: H. G. Adler (on) Writing Literature after the Holocaust
Humanities 2021, 10(2), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10020063 - 31 Mar 2021
Viewed by 322
Abstract
Taking the next step in our understanding of the testimony of Holocaust literature involves taking a step back to recuperate a theoretical approach that does not cede all human attempts at knowledge to skepticism. At odds with Theodor Adorno about the possibility of [...] Read more.
Taking the next step in our understanding of the testimony of Holocaust literature involves taking a step back to recuperate a theoretical approach that does not cede all human attempts at knowledge to skepticism. At odds with Theodor Adorno about the possibility of writing poetry after Auschwitz, Adler, a survivor of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, transformed his experiences into fiction. In his novel, Eine Reise, published in 1962, and in his 1965 essay on “Die Grenzen des Sagbaren,” or the limits of the sayable, Adler addresses these dilemmas. While Adorno collapses traditions of value into barbarity, Adler struggles to maintain, describe and explain the possibility of human resistance to evil. I examine Adler’s nuanced use of language in these two works and show that the rage and epistemological uncertainty that dominate the post-Holocaust world do not necessarily lead to the destruction of all traditional forms of meaning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
Father and God (the Father) in Wiesel’s Night as Response to the Holocaust
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 57; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010057 - 22 Mar 2021
Viewed by 520
Abstract
The proposed paper will begin by looking at the father–son relationship in Elie Wiesel’s Night. I will then briefly note the father–child relationship between God and Israel in the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. I will link the two challenges evident in Wiesel’s [...] Read more.
The proposed paper will begin by looking at the father–son relationship in Elie Wiesel’s Night. I will then briefly note the father–child relationship between God and Israel in the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. I will link the two challenges evident in Wiesel’s Night and in his continuing thought after the Shoah—the loss of family and the loss of God, his faith and/or his understanding of God—and note how these affect one another. After further assessing Wiesel’s father imagery in Night, I will note how Wiesel’s story, eventually making its way into the current version of Night, played a critical role in affecting the thought of Christian leaders and post-Holocaust Jewish–Christian reconciliation efforts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
Dialogical Memory and Immemorial Poetics: The Ethical Imperatives of Holocaust Literature
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 42; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010042 - 02 Mar 2021
Viewed by 377
Abstract
Drawing from Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophical ethics and Paul Celan’s dialogical poetics, this article interrogates the impossible memorial and ethical demands that literary responses to the Holocaust place upon their readers. While Levinas reveals our position as summoned to radical responsibility, Celan shows us [...] Read more.
Drawing from Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophical ethics and Paul Celan’s dialogical poetics, this article interrogates the impossible memorial and ethical demands that literary responses to the Holocaust place upon their readers. While Levinas reveals our position as summoned to radical responsibility, Celan shows us how that responsibility plays out in the form of ethical reading. By attending to the imperative commands found in Celan’s longest poem, “Engführung”, this article demonstrates how Holocaust literature memorializes the Shoah through an invocation of Levinasian ethics and the concept of the immemorial—that which exceeds memory. Following the discussion of Levinas, Celan, and “Engführung”, I turn to Primo Levi’s “Shema”, a paradigmatic text that likewise directly challenges us, calling us into question as readers during the moment of reading and demanding an attentiveness to the text that proves beyond our ability to deliver. Throughout, I aim to show how dialogical memory enables us to better comprehend the ethical burden we encounter in the literary texts of the Holocaust. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
Memoirs in Miniature: CM/1 Forms and Fragmentary Understandings of the Holocaust
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010022 - 28 Jan 2021
Viewed by 719
Abstract
This article examines the Care and Maintenance (CM/1) form of Paula Bettauer for what it reveals about her memories of surviving the Holocaust and her husband’s murder in Auschwitz. The record includes a personal narrative, chronologies of her employment status and vital documents, [...] Read more.
This article examines the Care and Maintenance (CM/1) form of Paula Bettauer for what it reveals about her memories of surviving the Holocaust and her husband’s murder in Auschwitz. The record includes a personal narrative, chronologies of her employment status and vital documents, as well as other details, all of which offer a view of navigating Vienna following the Nazi annexation and later deportation of the vast majority of the city’s Jewish population. This article reports on these crucial pieces of information and analyzes various blank spaces in comprehending the Holocaust through an individual’s postwar memories. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
Hunger: Testing Testimonial Limits in the Gray Zone
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010021 - 27 Jan 2021
Viewed by 570
Abstract
Literary descriptions of the multitude of experiences during the Holocaust and World War II face the dilemma of the (non)representability of extreme duress. This article delves into the testimonial remnants of two men in the gray zone of complicity: Eliezer Gruenbaum’s harrowing recollections [...] Read more.
Literary descriptions of the multitude of experiences during the Holocaust and World War II face the dilemma of the (non)representability of extreme duress. This article delves into the testimonial remnants of two men in the gray zone of complicity: Eliezer Gruenbaum’s harrowing recollections of starving prisoners in Birkenau, and Konrad Jarausch’s chronicling of his burgeoning despair over his inability to feed Soviet POWs in the winter of 1941. Both men testify to the devastating effects of hunger (due to deliberate starvation policies) from positions that implicate them as complicit observers. This article employs Naomi Mandel’s idea of complicity as the condition for responsibility, Jill Stauffer’s ethical loneliness, and Primo Levi’s gray zone to make interpretive suggestions for understanding their testimonies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
“Nature’s Revolt”: The River’s Reply in Ida Fink’s A Scrap of Time
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010020 - 25 Jan 2021
Viewed by 423
Abstract
This article accounts for what language and memory are and are not capable of in literary depictions of the Holocaust. To read, analyze, or even write Holocaust narratives, readers must expect to encounter new forms of writing and expression. This interpretation of Ida [...] Read more.
This article accounts for what language and memory are and are not capable of in literary depictions of the Holocaust. To read, analyze, or even write Holocaust narratives, readers must expect to encounter new forms of writing and expression. This interpretation of Ida Fink’s A Scrap of Time effectively inverts the paradox of ‘telling’ the unspeakable by giving voice to an aspect of life that cannot communicate in clear and ordinary ways. In Fink’s fiction, nature speaks. The Gniezna River in “A Spring Morning”, a nameless river in “Titina”, and the Rhine River in “Night of the Surrender”, all brim with associations and themes concerning connections between language, time, meaning, God, nature, and human suffering during the Holocaust. They have unspeakable things to say, refusing to remain silent in response to human atrocity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
On Becoming a Non-Jewish Holocaust Writer: Yann Martel’s Beatrice and Virgil
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010012 - 31 Dec 2020
Viewed by 563
Abstract
To appraise Martel’s non-Jewish perspective of Holocaust thematic, it is important to assess it in the context of the Jewish relations with the Holocaust. Even though the Jewish claim to the uniqueness of the Holocaust has been disputed since the end of the [...] Read more.
To appraise Martel’s non-Jewish perspective of Holocaust thematic, it is important to assess it in the context of the Jewish relations with the Holocaust. Even though the Jewish claim to the uniqueness of the Holocaust has been disputed since the end of the war especially in Eastern Europe, the Jewish response determined to a large extent the reception of the disaster on the global scene. On a family level, the children of survivors have identified themselves as the legitimate heirs of the unknowable experience of their parents. On a collective level, the decree of Jewish annihilation constructed a Jewish identity that imposed an obligation to keep the Holocaust memory in the consciousness of the world. Martel proposes to supersede the history of the Holocaust with a story which would downplay the Jewish filiation with the Holocaust, elicit an affiliative response to the event of the non-Jewish writer and consequently integrate it into the memory of humanity at large. However, the Holocaust theme of Beatrice and Virgil refuses to assimilate within the general memory of humanity; rather, the consciousness of the event, which pervades the post-Holocaust world, insists on its constant presence. The omnipresence of the Holocaust blurs the distinctions between the filiative (Jewish) and affiliative (non-Jewish) attitudes toward the Jewish tragedy, gripping the writer in its transcendent horror. Disregarding his ethnic or religious origins, the Holocaust takes over the writer’s personal life and determines his story. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
Double Jeopardy: The Fate of Intermarriage and Justice in the Films Redemption Road and Max and Hélène
Humanities 2021, 10(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/h10010006 - 29 Dec 2020
Viewed by 475
Abstract
Intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews during the Third Reich occupied a dangerously ambiguous position. Although the 1935 Nuremberg Laws declared intermarriage illegal, the Jewish wife or husband was at first exempted from anti-Semitic persecution. After Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, their situation deteriorated [...] Read more.
Intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews during the Third Reich occupied a dangerously ambiguous position. Although the 1935 Nuremberg Laws declared intermarriage illegal, the Jewish wife or husband was at first exempted from anti-Semitic persecution. After Kristallnacht on 9 November 1938, their situation deteriorated dramatically. However, Nazi family law was applied inconsistently, leaving both spouses in states of uncertainty with regard to their marriages and children. This essay examines the representation of intermarriage in two films: the 2015 Italian film Max and Helene, and Redemption Road, a 2016 two-part German miniseries. With hybrid cinematic styles, narrative trajectories, and characterizations, these films dramatize the traumatic consequences of Nazi racial ideology and practices for two intermarried couples and their children. Spanning the years 1938 through the late 1940s, intermarriage in these films raises challenging questions about survival, reconciliation, and loss and the definition and achievement of legal, ethical, and emotional justice in the aftermath. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
“To Extract from It Some Sort of Beautiful Thing”: The Holocaust in the Families and Fiction of Nava Semel and Etgar Keret
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 137; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040137 - 23 Nov 2020
Viewed by 836
Abstract
In literary narratives by Nava Semel (1954–2017) and Etgar Keret (b. 1967), both Israeli children of Holocaust survivors, readers encounter the kinds of searching questions about inheriting the burden of traumatic inheritance, witnessing, and postmemory frequently intrinsic to second-generation literature in other national [...] Read more.
In literary narratives by Nava Semel (1954–2017) and Etgar Keret (b. 1967), both Israeli children of Holocaust survivors, readers encounter the kinds of searching questions about inheriting the burden of traumatic inheritance, witnessing, and postmemory frequently intrinsic to second-generation literature in other national contexts. However, their works are further distinguished by acute examinations that probe the moral fabric of Israeli society itself, including dehumanization of the enemy through slogans and other debased forms of language and misuses of historical memory. In addition, their fiction measures the distance between the suffering and pain of intimate family memory (what Semel once dubbed their “private Shoah”) and ceremonial, nationalistic forms of Holocaust memory, and the apartness felt by the children of survivors who sense themselves somehow at odds with their society’s heroic values. Semel’s numerous articles, and fiction as well as nonfiction books, frequently address second and third-generation trauma, arguably most impressively in her harrowing five-part novel And the Rat Laughed (2001) that spans 150 years but most crucially juxtaposes the experiences of a “hidden child” in a remote wartime Polish village repeatedly raped with that of her grandchild writing a dutiful report for her class in contemporary Israel. Elsewhere, in a distant future, a bewildered but determined anthropologist is set on assembling a scientific report with coherent meaning from the fragmented “myths” inherited from the barbaric past. Over the years, Keret (generally known more for whimsical and surreal tales) has often spoken in interviews as well as his memoir about being raised by survivors. “Siren”, set in a Tel Aviv high school, is one of the most acclaimed of Keret’s realist stories (and required reading in Israeli high schools), raises troubling questions about Israeli society’s official forms of Holocaust mourning and remembrance and individual conscience. It is through their portrayals of the cognitive and moral struggles of children and adolescents, the destruction of their innocence, and gradual awakening into compassionate awareness that Semel and Keret most shine, each unwavering in preserving the Shoah’s legacy as a form of vigilance against society’s abuses, whether toward “internal” or “external” others. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
Article
“Sometimes Your Memories Are Not Your Own”: The Graphic Turn and the Future of Holocaust Representation
Humanities 2020, 9(4), 136; https://doi.org/10.3390/h9040136 - 13 Nov 2020
Viewed by 577
Abstract
“The legacy of the Shoah” writes Eva Hoffman, a child of Holocaust survivors, “is being passed on to … the post-generation … The inheritance … is being placed in our hands, perhaps in our trust.” We are entering an era that will witness [...] Read more.
“The legacy of the Shoah” writes Eva Hoffman, a child of Holocaust survivors, “is being passed on to … the post-generation … The inheritance … is being placed in our hands, perhaps in our trust.” We are entering an era that will witness the end of direct survivor testimony. As we move farther and farther from the events of the Shoah, subsequent generations, who see their own lives shaped by the defining rupture of the past, continue to respond to the call of memory. The current era has seen a burgeoning of Holocaust literary representation in the evolving genre of graphic novels, narratives that reanimate and materialize the past through the juxtapositions and intersections of text and image. Calling upon the Deuteronomic imperative to “teach your children,” second and third-generation Holocaust writers, through the hybrid form of the graphic novel, attempt to give shape to the traumatic imprint of the Shoah and its haunting aftermath for generations extending beyond that history. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Literary Response to the Holocaust)
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