In recent years, studies of memory (both individual and cultural) have rivaled those of history, and have produced alternative narratives of events. At the same time, research has also focused on the rupture of narrative, the inability to find appropriate forms of telling, and the experience of a loss of words. The notion of trauma (Greek for “wound”) may stand for such a rupture. Many kinds of narratives, most prominently the recollections of Holocaust survivors, are instances in which memories are invoked not only to come to terms with traumatic events, but also to inscribe trauma in various ways.
In this seminar, we will read theoretical work on memory and trauma, discuss their implication for the study of literature, art, and culture, read select examples from Holocaust survivors’ autobiographies (i.e. Primo Levi, Eli Wiesel), and discuss visual art (i.e. Boltanski, Kiefer) and film (i.e. Resnais, Lanzmann, Spielberg).