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Questioning Redemptive Narratives in Artistic Productions of the Holocaust

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cityview 1 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Abstract

This panel explores how narratives of the Holocaust are constructed as redemptive or triumphant in works of cultural production, despite the problematics of such constructions. The papers in our panel look closely at specific literary, musical, theatrical, or artistic works created during the Holocaust and explore the ways in which the afterlives of these works subvert and/or uphold redemptive, unifying narratives of the Holocaust. With a diverse range of approaches, our panelists address both well-known works of Holocaust artistic production and those that have received little to no academic attention.

Catherine Greer’s paper examines the opera, THE EMPEROR OF ATLANTIS, composed in Theresienstadt in 1943 but not performed until 1975. THE EMPEROR OF ATLANTIS has become subject to narratives of resistance and triumph, and Greer argues that these narratives ultimately mythologize the rehearsal process and the opera's history in Theresienstadt. Also focusing in part on a Theresienstadt opera, Joanna Krongold’s paper uses the children’s opera BRUNDIBAR as a departure point to explore the ways in which children’s Holocaust literature struggles with hopeful or overly broad conclusions. Krongold looks closely at the evolution of Anne Frank’s diary and its impact on other more recent children’s books, demonstrating how the use of figurative devices and metaphor can challenge or create redemptive narratives of the Holocaust. Anna Shternshis’s paper introduces newly-discovered Yiddish materials written during the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. She carefully examines these Yiddish jokes, songs, and stories in order to demonstrate the use of triumphant humour as a means of motivation for the Soviet-Jewish population. These three papers in conversation demonstrate the wide-ranging nature of stories constructed during, after, and around the Second World War, questioning the possibility of redemptive or hopeful narratives of the Holocaust.

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