Remembering memory: the Holocaust and the "second generation"

McGlothlin, Erin Heather, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia
Voris, Renate, Department of Germanic Languages and Literature, University of Virginia
Grossman, Jeffrey, E0:AS-German Lit, University of Virginia
Bennett, Benjamin, E0:AS-German Lit, University of Virginia
Megill, Allan, E0:AS-History, University of Virginia

Remembering Memory: The Holocaust and the "Second Generation" is a study of the literary responses of the generation of writers born after the Holocaust. My use of the term second generation expands the commonly used definition, which describes literary texts that approach Holocaust memory from the perspective of the children of survivors, to include texts written from the point of view of the children of perpetrators, a group of texts sometimes known in German as Väterliteratur. I bring these two groups together to investigate how the second generation imagines the Holocaust, an event to which it has no direct access, and how the narrative structure of the text registers these encounters with Holocaust trauma and memory. The introductory chapter asks why no attempt has been made to link the two literatures together, despite their common themes of Holocaust memory and inherited trauma. I argue that despite the gross differences in the point of reference for the two genres and the very tricky problem of bringing them together without relativizing either the suffering of the victims or the guilt of the perpetrators, the common problem of remembering an unexperienced Holocaust merits their juxtaposition.

My study begins with an analysis of Thane Rosenbaum's Elijah Visible, in which I discuss the problems of character identity and vocal unity. Chapters three and four examine two texts from Väterliteratur, Vati and Der Vater. With Peter Schneider's Vati, I demonstrate how the text is caught up in a tropological struggle between two methods of engagement with the past: Vergangenheitsbewältigung and Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit. In the chapter on the Frank/Sobol play Der Vater, I embark on a hunt for the missing figure in Väterliteratur: the fascist mother. Chapter five examines the role of the second-generation witness m Robert Schindel's Gebürtig by investigating the narratorial crisis that occurs during the course of the novel. Finally, chapter six explores the complex temporal levels in Art Spiegelman's Maus as well as the narrative relationship between the three levels of the Holocaust past, the scene of testimony, and the "super-present" of Holocaust memory.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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