Women's Holocaust Writing: Memory and Imagination

Women's Holocaust Writing: Memory and Imagination

Women's Holocaust Writing: Memory and Imagination

Women's Holocaust Writing: Memory and Imagination

Synopsis

Women's Holocaust Writing extends Holocaust and literary studies by examining women's artistic representations of female Holocaust experiences, as given voice by Cynthia Ozick, Ilona Karmel, Elzbieta Ettinger, Hana Demetz, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, Norma Rosen, and Marge Piercy. Through close, insightful reading of fiction, S. Lillian Kremer explores Holocaust representations in works distinguished by the power of their literary expression and attention to women's diverse experiences. She draws upon history, psychology, women's studies, literary analysis, and interviews with authors to compare writing by eyewitnesses working from memory with that by remote "witnesses through the imagination."

Excerpt

Studies of Holocaust literature written before the late I970s by male critics focused on works by male Europeans and Israelis. Other than a few significant exceptions, prominent critics have given scant attention to the noteworthy body of Holocaust writing by Americans and women. With the intention of extending the canon, this text explores English-language fiction by émigré women living in America whose creative writing is influenced by Holocaust memory and experience, and fiction by American-born women encountering the Holocaust through research and imagination.

Rather than present a definitive survey of women's Holocaust narratives, I offer a close reading of exemplary works and take notice of their relationship to women's testimonies and to the relevant historic context. I have selected texts distinguished by the power of their literary expression and reflective of the diverse Holocaust experience of nationally, culturally, and socially distinct women. These fictions by survivors and their contemporaries who were "not there" offer a widely disparate portrait of female Holocaust experience: women living openly and in hiding in Aryan sectors and women incarcerated in ghettos and camps, passive victims and resistance fighters, the secular and the religious, and eastern and western Europeans of varied political views and social and economic classes. Some of these works have been critically acclaimed and embraced by the reading public; others are neglected works of literary and historic merit. Each makes a significant contribution to shaping our understanding of women's Holocaust experience by graphically and poignantly rendering the trauma of Jewish and half-Jewish women under the yoke of National Socialism. Each provides a glimpse of female-gendered Holocaust experience hitherto unmapped in male-authored texts customarily presented and received as portraits of normative Holocaust experience.

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