Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Department

Languages, Literatures and Cultures

Sub-Department

College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Agnes C. Mueller

Abstract

This thesis provides a structural and para-textual analysis of recent Holocaust fiction. Challenging the assumption of the superiority of “authentic” representations of the psychological effects of this historic event, I will highlight the cultural and pedagogical effects of fictionalized accounts of the Holocaust. A short analysis of the terms “memory,” “trauma,” and “history” as understood in the research field of Holocaust studies, will be substantial in debunking the failures of memory as perfect ways to recreate historical “truths.” Theories about trauma and memory by scholars such as Cathy Caruth and Dominick LaCapra will serve as reference points in the validation of fictional accounts of the Holocaust as important alternatives to first-hand accounts. I will demonstrate the writers’ awareness of a realistic representation of traumatic experiences without claiming that they represent the truth. The authors need to be aware of their positioning in the Holocaust discourse as writers of fictional accounts and make this aspect visible in their writings so that the texts cannot be classified as fraud or representations of appropriation of victimhood. Analyzed texts will include Maus by Art Spiegelman, Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald, Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, and The Canvas (Die Leinwand) by Benjamin Stein. These texts diverge from previous representations of the topic in terms of narrative technique and various literary methods that are combined into hybrid forms. In doing so, they emphasize the constructivist nature of narratives as such, and offer essential new ways of representation that do not focus on historical “truths,” but on ways in which memory tricks people into presumably false identifications of identity and history. They thus represent poignantly the inner lives of traumatized persons and the people they are in contact with.

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