Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Witness to Violence: Women and the Holocaust

ENGL 493.601
instructor(s):
W 6:30-9:10

This course will provide both a general introduction to the field of holocaust and torture survivor literature and theory and an advanced study of the effects of extreme violence upon survivors.  We will pay particular attention to the role that gender plays in the experience and the enactment of this violence.  By reading first-person accounts, we will examine some of the issues that confront survivors as they try to re-enter the world of "normative" culture.  We will place these readings within a larger cultural and historical framework by reading texts such as the U.N. Declaration and Amnesty reports.  We will explore the ways in which theories of human rights attempt to regulate both nations and individuals through juridical structures that, while they are consistently better elaborated, are largely inadequate.  In the end, we are left with the question of why, when the structures that, while they are consistently better elaborated, are largely inadequate.  In the end, we are left with the question of why, when the world community is increasingly aware of, and able to intervene into, situations of genocide and human rights abuse around the globe, do we remain largely unwilling and unable to address it in any truly effective way?  Examples of texts we might use in the course are Charlotte Delbo's Who Will Carry the Word?  Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz, Alicia Partnoy's The Little School, Elaine Scarry's The Body in Pain, the films Closetland, Night and Fog, and Shoah.  

Note: This course is designed for graduate students in the "Masters of Liberal Arts Program" but *is* open to advanced undergraduate English majors.