My current project:
Trains, the journey trope, and cultural tourism: Representations of spatial suffering in Holocaust literature and memorialization
Primary Argument: Reading the spatial turn in Holocaust literature alongside current memorialization practices, in particular through the vehicles of trains and journeys, reveals one way that history and memory are constructed for contemporary “tourists” of the Holocaust.
Future project ideas for publication and presentation:
Representing and re-presenting the Holocaust: writing, memorializing, and visiting sites of memory
- Placing the past and a spatial understanding of the Holocaust
- What are Holocaust spaces and places? (Terminology)
- How are these represented and why look at them? (“Spatial turn”)
- The broad spectrum of Holocaust memorialization practices and sites; peripherally, the types of tourism to these sites
- How does spatial memorialization tie into the literary representation and why is it important
- Placing the past and a spatial understanding of the Holocaust
- Movement between or through spaces: Journey and destination
- Trains (paradoxical space: transporting while confining; dislocation);
- The primary quest (destruction and redemption); contemporary travel juxtaposed with the historical journey
- Confinement (which is one small secret place within the larger building, city of Amsterdam, and complex collection of countries amassed by the Nazi
- How place is represented and what do these representations mean
- Stark realism
- Magical realism
- diary or journal
- Reconstruction, conservation, placement, etc.
- Icon vs. reality; an expression of the Final Solution
- What it means to look at other spaces and places?
- The hidden Jew, or Jew in hiding
- Educational visits, tourism, Jewish heritage journeys
- Reconstruction as reconciliation
Jewish Literature of the Holocaust in Soviet-occupied and Post-Communist Countries
Tracing the link between Holocaust representation in Soviet states gives voice to the doubly marginalized Jewish victims and survivors from Central and Eastern European countries. These countries are still forging identities independent of the Soviet Union, which expands the possibilities for aesthetic responses to the Holocaust. They are in the process of developing their own memorialization practices vis-à-vis the Holocaust through the installation of museums, restoration of former sites of National Socialism such as Auschwitz and the Warsaw Ghetto, creation of memorials and places of education especially where restoration is not possible, and the involvement of academic institutions in developing Jewish Studies and Holocaust Studies programs. These developments coincide with the popularity of creative representations, which together must work to dismantle the distorted official narratives and regenerate the Jewish narrative from the primarily Western historical record. Because many survivors died without sharing their stories, mostly those who were young during the Holocaust were left to piece together immature memories, once again limiting access to experiences that were specific to Eastern European Jewish adults. Additionally, the unrelenting presence of anti-Jewish sentiment from the immediate Soviet period into the post-communist present places continual pressure on Jewish Holocaust writers to remain silent or deliver specific narratives. The limited space between Soviet suppression and traumatic silence gives rise to particularly resilient Jewish writers willing to confront the Holocaust in perpetually contentious regions and climates.
The Holocaust and ‘American holocaust’: Transgenerational trauma in 20th century American literature
The idea for my proposed research project developed out of my dissertation, in which issues of memory, trauma, and representation were recurrent themes. Along with a desire to move beyond my thesis subgenre, the survivor as author and child as perspective, I became interested in the ways in which literature explores how traumatic memories shape cultural and religious identity and representations. The question of conducting a comparative analysis of American Jewish literary responses to traumatic memory of the Holocaust and Native American literature came into focus when I read Pam Colorado’s poem ‘What Every Indian Knows’, which opens with an allusion to Auschwitz in America. Framing the earlier and continued suffering of Native Americans through the lens of the iconic Nazi concentration camp demonstrates a broader awareness of the connection between historical subjects and their representations. In the field of comparisons between the Holocaust and the ‘American holocaust’, to borrow a term from historian David Stannard, there is abundant scholarship from historical perspectives; there is also abundant scholarship on American Jewish literature and Native American literature, all of which touch upon memory, identity, and trauma. Scholars in the fields of Jewish, Native American, Holocaust, and genocide studies, have not yet fully addressed a comparative analysis of literature on their respective traumas; this project aims to fill that gap, while participating with the historically comparative dialogue. The contemporary relevancy of remembered pasts in literature is underscored in a period when conflicts around the globe are being decried as genocide and peoples are persecuted for their religions and cultures. This project seeks to expand on the literary history of narratives oriented around genocide in which texts are frequently scrutinized regarding historical accuracy and author authenticity. Do contemporary authors have the authority to tell genocide stories because of their affiliation to the cultural and religious groups against whom they were perpetrated? Should a comparison even be made between representations of the approximately 125 million Native American victims over an extended period of colonization and the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust? As historiographical issues are developing alongside a broader regeneration of public interest, the questions of motives for genocide concurrently emerge as crucial for reflecting on traumatic events as well as thinking through what is culturally inherited and represented in American society. I expect this research to contribute to debates not only on American Jewish literature and Native American literature, but also the multitudes of aesthetic responses to traumatic memory from peoples who have historically or recently been subject to genocidal violence.