Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust

Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust

Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust

Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust

Synopsis

This penetrating study explores some of the critical approaches common to works written by women about an extreme situation--the Holocaust--affecting both sexes. The two novels and four fictionalized memoirs on which Heinemann's analysis is based describe experiences unique to women in the Holocaust. Among Heinemann's chief areas of focus are themes, modes of characterization, peer relations, and authenticating strategies and how they differ significantly from the ways that men have shaped their prose versions of the Holocaust. This first critical treatment of Holocaust literature from a feminist perspective effectively challenges the widespread assumption that the literature of the Holocaust reflects identical experiences for both men and women.

Excerpt

Why women writers of Holocaust literature? Whom have you heard of, Elie Wiesel or Livia Bitton Jackson? Primo Levi or Charlotte Delbo? Tadeusz Borowski or Gerda Klein? Even after the controversial televising of Playing for Time, most people I have asked have not heard of Fania Fénelon. Almost everyone knows Anne Frank, but the life of hiding which her diary describes has very little to do with the concentration camp and deaths which awaited Anne and her family, like millions of others.

Why another book on the Holocaust? Already we have more books on the systematic annihilation of two-thirds of European Jewry than any one person can master. It is not simply the singularity of the event, although that is part of the reason. Even more than the scope and violence of the destruction, it is that a modern and culturally advanced nation, significantly aided by many in other countries, used modern industrial and managerial methods to destroy a people which had "produced the inventors and communicators of that culture in disproportionate numbers." Historian Henry Feingold points out the particular Jewish contribution of universalism to many fields of European intellectual thought and suggests that the Holocaust was a suicidal act of Europeans turning on those whose intellectual elite asked them to be better than they wanted to be. Although Turkey's . . .

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