Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History
Routledge – 1992 – 312 pages
In this unique collection, Yale literary critic Shoshana Felman and psychoanalyst Dori Laub examine the nature and function of memory and the act of witnessing, both in their general relation to the acts of writing and reading, and in their particular relation to the Holocaust. Moving from the literary to the visual, from the artistic to the autobiographical, and from the psychoanalytic to the historical, the book defines for the first time the trauma of the Holocaust as a radical crisis of witnessing "the unprecedented historical occurrence of…an event eliminating its own witness." Through the alternation of a literary and clinical perspective, the authors focus on the henceforth modified relation between knowledge and event, literature and evidence, speech and survival, witnessing and ethics.
"In a country like the United States, where we make a practice out of startegically erasing memories that lay bare the harsh realities of the ideology that drives our history of violence and domination, and in classrooms where we generally ignore the voices and experiences of students - a great many of whom have witnessed the brutality of the streets, poverty, racism, and discrimination - the lessons of this book are a must." -- Harvard Educational Review, Summer 1995
"In subsequent essays Felman displays her considerable literay prowess. Her analysis of Albert Camus's The Plague and The Fall as Holocaust literature is compelling, so muchso that it drove this reader to reread these works and to read them quite differently." -- Oral History Review
". . . a remarkable book for many reasons. Testimony endows the survivor, the victim and its witness with a sober and forceful way of attesting to the unnamable and invisible presence of its event." -- Psychoanalytic Books
Shoshana Felman is the Thomas E. Donnelly Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Yale University. Dori Laub is a psychiatrist engaged in the treatment of trauma survivors and is cofounder of the Holocaust Survivors' Film Project and of the Video Archives for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University.