This class will scrutinize theory through the lens of the Holocaust with two distinct questions in mind: 1) in what ways does the Holocaust force us to question our understanding of such fundamental theoretical concepts as historical representation, narrative (grand or not), referentiality, aesthetic form, and reader response? 2) in what ways did the Holocaust set the necessary conditions for the work of the various theoretical schools and critics of the last 40 years (Foucault, deconstruction, postmodernism, and cultural criticism)? With these double inquiries in mind, we will analyze a wide variety of aesthetic and theoretical texts in an effort to come to understand this most traumatic of recent historical events. Some of the insistent questions that will be raised throughout the semester include: Is there a proper way to represent the past? How do we construct a sense of justice in the face of the Holocaust? What is the role of memory (as opposed to institutionalized history) in our relationship to the past? What is the proper role of popular culture in the representation of the Holocaust? To what extent can we understand our contemporary postmodern culture as a reaction to this collective trauma?
EXTERNAL WEB SITES
A Timeline of the Holocaust: A superb timeline of important dates in the gradual implementation and radicalization of the "Final Solution." The dates proceed from 1931 to 1961 (the trial of Eichamnn) and include links to historical photographs and explanatory information.
|List of Extermination Camps: The links on this page provide detailed information about the extermination camps, including a number of historical photographs.|
|List of Concentration Camps: The links on this page provide detailed information about concentration camps, distinguished from "extermination camps" because they did not have gas chambers. A number of these existed within Germany proper.|
|List of Camps: This is another, even more detailed listing of concentration and extermination camps in Europe during the Nazi period. Links include detailed maps and historical photographs.|
|Slide Show of Birkenau and Mauthausen: This is a very good slide show put together by Alan Jacobs. It walks you through these camps and explains the individual images (including some historical documents). You will here see again a number of the images offered by Claude Lanzmann in his Shoah.|
|A Normal Day in the Camps: An effort to imagine a typical day in a concentration camp.|
|Abe's Story: An interactive map documenting Abram Korn's progress in Nazi-occupied Europe over the course of the Nazi period. This site allows you to imagine yourself following one person's experience of the Final Solution.|
|Last Expression: Art from the Holocaust: Superb web site, which includes art, essays, maps, and virtual tours.|
After going over the syllabus and the general expectations of the course, we will walk over to the showing of the first part of Shoah.
Wenesday, January 10: 6:30-9:00pm, LAEB 2290
Thursday, January 11: 6:30-9:00pm, LAEB 2290
Friday, January 12: 6:30-9:00pm, LAEB 2290
Tuesday, January 16: 6:30-9:00pm, WTHR 172
We will begin this class with an exercise in metapedagogy, by discussing Shoshana Felman's essay on her experiences teaching a graduate class on the Holocaust. After discussing her class's response to difficult historical material, we will discuss our responses to our very first cultural documents, Lanzmann's Shoah and Resnais's short documentary, Night and Fog, which we will watch in class. What are the politics behind documentary representation? To what extent does film, as medium, entail certain representative (and ideological) effects?
- Shoshana Felman, "Education and Crisis, Or the Vicissitudes of Teaching" (READER)
- Theodor Adorno, "After Auschwitz" and "Commitment" (READER)
- Shoshana Felman, "The Return of the Voice: Claude Lanzmann's Shoah" (READER)
- Claude Lanzmann, "Why Spielberg Has Distorted the Truth" (READER)
- Geoffrey H. Hartman, "The Book of Destruction" (Probing 318-34)
- Alain Resnais, Night and Fog (1955): in class
Monday, January 22: 6:30-9:00pm, LAEB 2280
- Miriam Bratu Hansen, "Schindler's List is Not Shoah" (READER)
- Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (excerpts in READER)
- Linda Hutcheon, "Representing the Postmodern" (READER)
- Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism (excerpts in READER)
- in-class excerpts: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Diary of Anne Frank, Star Wars
Monday, January 29: 6:30-9:30pm, LAEB 2280
This week we will explore a text that attempts to rethink the representation of the Holocaust through form. In what ways, we will ask ourselves, does Spiegelman's Maus escape or engird the referential traps we have discussed so far. We will also continue our discussion of postmodernism. To what extent, we will ask, is our current cultural moment a direct response to the trauma of the Holocaust?
- Art Spiegelman, Maus I and II
- Hayden White, "Historical Emplotment and the Problem of Truth" (Probing 37-53)
- Berel Lang, "The Representation of Limits" (Probing 300-17)
- Amy Hungerford, "Surviving Rego Park: Holocaust Theory from Art Spiegelman to Berel Lang" (READER)
- Paul Celan, "Death Fugue" (Probing 255-58)
- Joel Felstiner, "Translating Paul Celan's 'Todesfuge': Rhythm and Repetition as Metaphor" (Probing 240-54)
- Henryk Górecki, Third Symphony (on reserve at the Media LibraryHIKS)
- Donald McCullough, Holocaust Cantata (on reserve at the Media LibraryHIKS)
- Ulrich Baer, "Laying Language Bare" (READER)
- OPTIONAL: Sidra KeKoven Ezrahi, "'The Grave in Air': Unbound Metaphors in Post-Holocaust Poetry" (Probing 259-76)
We will begin our discussion of historical representation by discussing a major debate about history that occured in the 1980s and that was quickly termed the historikerstreit or "battle over history." The debate resulted from a sequence of revisionist histories of the period that appeared in the 1980s followed by Jürgen Habermas' critique of these texts in the German newspaper, Die Zeit. Questions that will be raised this week include: What are the limits of representation? What is the pragmatic goal of history? What is the relationship between "history" and "the real."
- Jürgen Habermas, "Apologetic Tendencies" and Introduction by Richard Wolin (READER)
- Dominick LaCapra, "Representing the Holocaust: Reflections on the Historian's Debate" (Probing 108-27)
- Eric L. Santner, "History beyond the Pleasure Principle: Some Thoughts on the Representation of Trauma" (Probing 143-54)
During this second week, students will be introduced to the historical facts of the Holocaust by way of Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, a book which also raises a number of other issues that will interest us over the course of this semester: the responsibility of the individual, the question of justice, the definition of "crimes against humanity," and the psychopathology of the Holocaust. In lieu of class, students will attend a special public lecture by Robert Gellately, whose new book (published in February by Oxford UP) explores the issue of consent and coercion in Nazi Germany.
SPECIAL EVENING LECTURE BY ROBERT GELLATELY, THE STRASSLER FAMILY CHAIR FOR THE STUDY OF HOLOCAUST HISTORY, THE CENTER FOR HOLOCAUST STUDIES, CLARK UNIVERSITY
February 21: 7:00-8:30pm, Krannert Auditorium (including question-and-answer period)
- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem (excerpts in READER)
- Robert Gellately, "A Monstrous Uneasiness" (READER)
- Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler's Willing Executioners (excerpts in READER)
- Mary Nolan, ""The Historikerstreit and Social History" (READER)
- Victor Klemperer, I Will Bear Witness (the year, 1940, in READER)
- Dino Felluga, "Holocaust Iconoclasm and the Anti-Intellectual" (READER)
- Andreas Huyssen,Twilight Memories (excerpts in READER)
- Charles S. Maier, "A Usable Past? Museums, Memory, and Identity" (READER)
- James Young, "America's Holocaust: Memory and the Politics of Identity" (READER)
In lieu of the March 21 class, students will be asked to attend Purdue's annual Holocaust conference.
- Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (1979)
- Michel Foucault, "The Subject and Power," from 1982 (READER)
Deconstruction can be said to result from the questioning of all extant power hierarchies. We will explore this week how the Holocaust impels the activities of deconstruction and the ways in which deconstruction seeks to offer its own version of just relations. The issue of Paul de Man's connection to Nazi Germany will also be broached.
- Jaques Derrida, "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," from 1978 (READER)
- Jacques Derrida, Différance," from 1982 (READER)
- Jaques Derrida, "Force of Law," from 1992 (READER)
SPECIAL AFTERNOON LECTURE BY JAMES E. YOUNG, PROFESSOR AND CHAIRMAN OF THE JUDAIC STUDIES DEPARTMENT AND PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS
April 9: 4:00-5:30pm, Krannert Auditorium (including question-and-answer period)
Having broached the question of deconstruction and justice, we will this week explore arguably the most involved discussion of this issue, Lyotard's Differend.
- Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend (1988)
Zizek will allow us to explore psychoanalysis in two ways: 1) Can psychoanalysis offer us models for dealing with the trauma of the Holocaust? and 2) Can we read Lacanian psychoanalysis as directly influenced by the trauma of the Holocaust? It may be no coincidence that Lacan's reworking of the concept of the "real" occurs immediately following the second world war, just as it is not a coincidence that Freud's arguably most groundbreaking work, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, was formulated in direct response to World War I.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Che Vuoi?" from 1989 (READER)
- Slavoj Zizek, "Much Ado About a Thing," from 1991 (READER)
- Slavoj Zizek, "Love Thy Neighbour? No, Thanks!" from 1997 (READER)
- Juliet Flower MacCannell, "Facing Fascism: A Feminine Politics of Jouissance" (READER)
Butler's theories about "performativity" can also be read as a direct response to fears about national myths and narratives. To what extent, we will ask ourselves, does Butler offer a viable model for effective political action in a time when all grand narratives have been called into question?
- Judith Butler, Excitable Speech (1997)
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Last Revised: January 15, 2001