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The Holocaust: Problems of Representation in Literature & Film

ENGL 261.401
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

This course is about the enormous difficulties faced by those who felt the urgent need to describe their own or others' experiences during the genocide of the European Jews, 1933-1945. We will explore the complex options they have faced as narrators, witnesses, allegorists, memoirists, scholars, teachers, writers and image-makers. Some linguistically (or visually) face the difficulty head on; most evade, avoid, repress, stutter or go silent, and agonize. Part of the purpose of the course is for us to learn how to sympathize with the struggle of those in the latter group. This is not a history course, although the vicissitudes of historiography will be a frequent topic of conversation.

Although the course will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 3, there will be several required sessions outside those times. Students who enroll in the course must make themselves available for these. One will be a one-day screening of the 9.5-hour film SHOAH on a Sunday in October.

Students will write frequent short papers, called "position papers," due often and always before class in order to provide a basis for discussion. The manner of teaching will be discussion, never lecture.

Students need not know anything about the Holocaust in order to take the course, although enrollees should consider historical reading over the summer.

Prospective students might wish to look at the reading schedule and syllabus for the course as it was taught most recently:

http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/Holocaust/fall06.html