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“Forging an Intergenerational Holocaust Testimony”

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 2 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


As recent studies show (Aarons and Berger, 2017, Jilovsky et al, 2016), the narrative innovations of third generation Holocaust writing reflect the challenges of confronting and representing its intense relationship to first and second generation survivor memory and testimony. This panel will examine that relationship by considering first, second, and third generation writing both individually and conjoined as an intergenerational Holocaust testimony. Together, the three papers explore unsettling intersections of Holocaust memory, defamiliarization, and representations as each generation’s writing is viewed in light of the others. As a whole, the panel will lend critical insight into the psychological and narrative tensions shaped by the second and third generations’ search for personal and cultural connections to the memories, testimonies, and history of the survivor generation. In effect, the panel forges a method of considering an intergenerational relationship that leads the way towards studying Holocaust writing as it continues to emerge. With each of our three papers dealing with a different generation, our goal is to offer new insights into the dynamically evolving genre of Holocaust testimony and its critical relationship to Holocaust history and memory.
In particular, David Patterson’s paper on Elie Wiesel’s memoir Night argues that its forms of remembrance and testimony are grounded in allusions to Jewish tradition that are foundational and crucial to our reading of Holocaust literature and understanding the Nazi imperative to destroy the Jews and their culture. Phyllis Lassner discusses Eva Hoffman’s intergenerational novel The Secret to show how a mother-daughter relationship encapsulates the shaping forces of Holocaust memory and the need to recognize its irretrievability by creating a new genre of Holocaust literature, the speculative novel. Victoria Aarons analyzes Guatemalan Jewish writer Eduardo Halfon’s autobiographical stories to explore the shape of third-generation narratives and their temporal distance and testimonial extension of Holocaust memory.

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