German Literature of the Holocaust

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

Alfred D. White (Cardiff University)
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Theodor W. Adorno stated in 1951 that he considered writing poetry after Auschwitz “barbaric”. Adorno – who later modified his dictum – meant that art cannot show the suffering of the victims commensurately, and that therefore the project of doing so risks turning into an unworthy aestheticisation of the horror, a gleaning of pleasure from pain or an illusory giving of meaning to a catastrophe which was actually meaningless. George Steiner also claimed that art is trivial or impertinent in the face of the Holocaust. Against this we claim that there is a Holocaust literature that goes beyond mimesis. Lawrence Langer argues that artistic treatment of the Holocaust is characterised not by a doomed attempt simply to transpose …

4655 words

Citation: White, Alfred D.. "German Literature of the Holocaust". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 March 2007 [, accessed 03 October 2023.]

1718 German Literature of the Holocaust 2 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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