Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
English & Film Studies
Faculty of Arts
This thesis concerns itself with the possibilities and limits of witnessing the Holocaust from a distance. It analyzes the ways in which the notion of distance—temporal, geographical, linguistic, and aesthetic—influences, shapes, and alters the act of bearing witness to a remote historical event, which, because of its enormity, seemingly defies the act ofwitnessing and thus ofrepresentation. This study investigates the long-lasting impact ofthe Holocaust on subsequent generations, particularly on third-generation descendants ofvictims and perpetrators, and explores how the traumatic legacy ofthe Holocaust locates new forms of representation within the context ofpostmodernism, which, because of its emphasis on fragmentation, on the loss ofteleology and causality, and its suspicion ofmaster narratives, offers innovative and experimental representational strategies for what has commonly been regarded as unrepresentable.
By focussing on the figure ofthe distant witness, that is, on members of postwar generations, this thesis highlights the representational complexities prompted by the complication of attempting to remember and to represent an event whose very extremities and incomprehensibilities render it, in itself, unrepresentable. Investigating the ways in which memory is constructed and in turn represented, and how this representation, or non-representation, of traumatic memory affects cultural and collective identities, and the ethical responsibility for ongoing remembrance, this thesis ultimately explores the ways in which the notion of distance, as an integral part ofthe act of witnessing, influences, determines, and shapes how a culture situates itself in relation to its past.
Raethel, Miriam Carolin, "Witnessing from a Distance: Postwar Literary Representations of the Holocaust" (2010). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 1104.