German Literature of the Holocaust (4655 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

  • Alfred D. White (University of Wales, Cardiff)


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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 …

White, Alfred D.. "German Literature of the Holocaust". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 12 March 2007
[, accessed 24 October 2016.]

Related Groups

  1. Holocaust Literature