After Representation?: The Holocaust, Literature, and by R. Clifton Spargo, R. Clifton Spargo, Robert M. Ehrenreich

By R. Clifton Spargo, R. Clifton Spargo, Robert M. Ehrenreich

After illustration? explores one of many significant matters in Holocaust studies--the intersection of reminiscence and ethics in inventive expression, quite inside of literature.

As specialists within the examine of literature and tradition, the students during this assortment learn the moving cultural contexts for Holocaust illustration and show how writers--whether they write as witnesses to the Holocaust or at an imaginitive distance from the Nazi genocide--articulate the shadowy borderline among truth and fiction, among occasion and expression, and among the situation of existence persevered in atrocity and the desire of a significant lifestyles. What innovative literature brings to the learn of the Holocaust is a capability to check the boundaries of language and its conventions. After illustration? strikes past the suspicion of illustration and explores the altering that means of the Holocaust for various generations, audiences, and contexts.

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For testimonies of that here-and-now, reported by an eyewitness or other tradent in the chain of tradition, always depict something that, especially HISTORY WRITING AND THE ROLE OF FICTION 27 when communicated in writing, is already a there-and-then. Hence a question comes up concerning the authoritativeness of the contemporary witnesses (we know them only relatively, if at all) or the authenticity of the transmitted record. We are obliged to develop criteria to test and affirm what happened, and this usually amounts to endowing an event after the fact with an exemplarity—what Jacques Derrida calls its demeure—explaining our continuing fascination with it.

Jacques Derrida, Demeure: Fiction and Testimony, trans. Elizabeth Rottenberg (Stanford: Stanford University Press, ), published together with Maurice Blanchot, The Instant of My Death. , abode, the capacity to dwell as borderers between the testimonial modes of history and fiction), or what Hegel characterizes as “Verweilen”: staying with, internalizing, instead of seeking to close off by appropriative interpretations, the historical moment, so that its role in the larger, necessary momentum of the “prodigious labor” of world history can be realized.

Even the sober accounts of modern historians do not deny that mankind has been decisively affected by visionary representations.  Efforts to subtract imagination from reality in order to discover an untransformed factual content have always led to frustrating disputes. There cannot be one accepted method of decoding, given the freedom and ingenuity of the literary-artistic mind. Nor is imagination simply an addition to the compound we call reality rather than part of that reality. Jorge Semprun’s account of his experiences in Buchenwald has the ring of autobiographical truth.

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