Holocaust Narratives : Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations book cover
1st Edition

Holocaust Narratives
Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations

ISBN 9780367442972
Published September 2, 2020 by Routledge
218 Pages

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Book Description

Holocaust Narratives: Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations analyzes individual multi-generational frameworks of Holocaust trauma to answer one essential question: How do these narratives change to not only transmit the trauma of the Holocaust – and in the process add meaning to what is inherently an event that annihilates meaning – but also construct the trauma as a connector to a past that needs to be continued in the present? Meaningless or not, unspeakable or not, unknowable or not, the trauma, in all its impossibilities and intractabilities, spawns literary and scholarly engagement on a large scale. Narrative is the key connector that structures trauma for both individual and collective.

Table of Contents

Holocaust traumata and their generational legacies and emanations

Generations: structural frameworks

The dialogical nature of (collective) trauma

Trauma theory: concepts, implications, outlooks

Moving trauma theory into the generation of postmemory

Living in the aftermath: forms of trauma

Insterstices between individual and cultural trauma

Trauma as connective force

Structure of the book

Narrating the inexpressible: Wiesel’s Night as testimonial trendsetter

God on the gallows: doublings of faith

Trauma in the mirror: identities in the face of trauma

Paradigmatic accuser: connecting audiences

Witness in search of meaning and silence

Surviving and remembering: representing trauma in the present

The truth of fiction in Louis Begley’s Wartime Lies

Narrated identities: fictionalization of self and its actual facts

Negotiating fact and fiction in meaningful representation for the audience

The creation of meaning and its passing ownership

(R/De-)construction of narrative and real identity

Asserting control by narrative means

Rescuing one’s memory from past traumata: Cheryl Pearl Sucher’s The Rescue of Memory

Past and Present: making a stance of one’s own

Photographs and other stories: past negatives and healing trauma

Generational Connections: approaching first- and second-generation trauma

First-hand trauma in second-generation writing

Emancipation through embedding: establishing a meaningful presence of the past

Meaningful incorporation of past trauma into present narratives

Encaustic memories: Second-generation assertions in Rosenbaum’s Second Hand Smoke

Traumatic impositions: connecting first- and second-generation trauma

Encountering the ghosts: generational connections to the past

Close contact: breaking down past and present distinctions

Imposing trauma: between filial rage and generational forgiveness

Individual and cultural authorship over trauma stories

Damaged goods: navigating parental trauma and one’s own

Exclusion from and inclusion into parental narratives

Remembering, letting go, and incorporating the past into the present

Progressive and tragic narrative outlook in overcoming trauma

Connecting worlds: Narrative networks in Horn’s The World to Come

Generational temporal connections

Choosing narrative, choosing life

Linguistic connections to translated pasts

Storied bridges: connecting present, past, and future worlds

Meaningful narratives: paper bridges between (past) trauma and (present) meanings

Connecting worlds: people as stories

Creating a future from the past

Stories as narrative intersections between generations

When memory fails: Fiction as history in Everything Is Illuminated

Narrative trajectories: limitations of fictional meaning creation

Generational positions: midrashic engagements and circular historicity

(Re-)Constructing the past: interrelations between the place and its stories

Language and silence: connective phantasmagorias of meaning

Workable terminologies: integrating past-tensed facts

Fictional records: tracking meanings between past and present

Narrative realities: permeating events and stories

Imaginative representation: memory’s narrative dependencies

Generational catharsis in dyadic, generational encounters

Conclusion: The future of trauma

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Thorsten Wilhelm studied History and English Literature and Linguistics at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Durham. He received his Staatsexamen (M.A.) in 2014. In 2019, Thorsten was awarded his Ph.D. summa cum laude by the English Department at Heidelberg University for his dissertation on "Traumatic Memories—Memories of Trauma: Post-1945 Jewish American Fiction and the Cultural Work of Trauma Narratives." Thorsten’s work comprises trauma theory and cultural productions at the interstices of trauma, memory, and narrative. Apart from his work on contemporary literature and its diverse traumata, Thorsten is fascinated by the 19th century. He lives his euphoria for Charles Dickens by working on a digitization project of rare and unique archival materials at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. He has been a Curatorial Fellow at the Beinecke in 2018.

Thorsten has been a Baden-Württemberg Lector at Yale University since 2016. He teaches German language, culture, and writing, and is interested in pedagogy with a focus on cultural learning and the production of cultural perceptions. He is a peer-reviewer for Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German and book-reviewer for CALICO.


"A major achievement, bringing subtle analysis of Holocaust trauma to bear on the narratives that construct the collective discourse of its meanings. Wilhelm's fine analysis helps us understand the continuing impact of the Shoah on ‘the memories of the future’ generated by second and third generation witnesses." Professor Emeritus Murray Baumgarten, University of California, Santa Cruz and Founding Director, The Dickens Project


"In his penetrating analysis Thorsten Wilhelm binds the remembrance of the past to a remembrance for the future. With every day that separates us from the Holocaust his work becomes more pressing. Wilhelm has summoned each of us to a testimony in which our very humanity is at stake." Professor David Patterson, Hillel Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies, Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Texas at Dallas


"The often invoked ‘Never again!’ relies on the continuous, while also impossible, re-presentation of the horrors and the on-going trauma of the Holocaust. This study is an acute and highly intelligent exploration into the trajectory of literary efforts to conceptualize, record, and narrate the memory of the experience of trauma beyond the generation of direct survivors." Dr. Margit Peterfy, Senior Lecturer in American Studies, University of Heidelberg