Jews in Literature Criticism: The Holocaust In Literature - Essay

Lawrence L. Langer (essay date 1975)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Langer, Lawrence L. “Acquainted with the Night.” In The Holocaust and the Literary Imagination, pp. 31-73. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975.

[In the following excerpt, Langer explores some ways in which various writers transformed their experience of the Holocaust into art.]

Who will write us new laws of harmony?
We have no further use for well-
tempered clavichords. We ourselves
are too much dissonance.

Wolfgang Borchert

In the beginning there was the Holocaust.
We must therefore start all over again. …
What it was we may never know; but
we must proclaim, at least, that it was,
that it is.

Elie...

(The entire section is 16652 words.)

Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven. “The Holocaust as a Jewish Tragedy 2: The Covenental Context.” In By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature, pp. 116-48. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

[In the following excerpt, Ezrahi examines the way several Hebraic writers treat the Holocaust in their works, emphasizing the trauma and great personal and religious cost of turning such an experience into art.]

ELIE WIESEL AND ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER: FROM REALITY TO LEGEND

The major tensions which the Holocaust activated in Jewish beliefs and ethics as well as the engagement of traditional elements in the search for appropriate forms of...

(The entire section is 15109 words.)

Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi (essay date 1980)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven. “History Imagined: The Holocaust in American Literature.” In By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature, pp. 176-216. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

[In the following excerpt, Ezrahi explores the responses of postwar American writers to the Holocaust, emphasizing a conflict many of them experienced between their creative imagination and obligation to historical truth.]

When six millions are slaughtered, in effect twice or thrice that number are [killed]. For the Jews [on all the other continents] die with them. All those that have not yet [perished] are not dead simply because they do not know what...

(The entire section is 20188 words.)

Michael André Bernstein (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bernstein, Michael André. “Unrepresentable Identities: The Jew in Postwar European Literature.” In Thinking about the Holocaust after Half a Century, edited by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, pp. 18-37. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

[In the following essay, Bernstein suggests that the Jew has not been treated in all his complexity in postwar European fiction, but rather as a representative of a “cemetery culture.”]

Ignorance about those who have disappeared undermines the reality of the world.

—Zbigniew Herbert, “Mr. Cogito on the Need for Precision”

I

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(The entire section is 7002 words.)

Edward R. Isser (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Isser, Edward R. “The Antecedents of American Holocaust Drama.” In Stages of Annihilation: Theatrical Representations of the Holocaust, pp. 32-43. Madison, WI: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1997.

[In the following excerpt, Isser discusses American drama written about the Holocaust, noting that themes and imagery were often softened and diluted to make them more acceptable to theatergoers.]

The Holocaust is an ineffable occurrence that defies the capabilities of the human imagination. Dramatic representations of the historical catastrophe must transform, or as Adorno has said, transfigure, the terror so that it can be endured by an audience. In the...

(The entire section is 5189 words.)