Susan Gubar

11:15a-12:30p TR (30 students) 3 cr. A&H.

TOPIC: “The Holocaust”

This class will begin with touchstone texts (in translation) about the Holocaust. After viewing Alain Renais' film Night and Fog and selected interviews from Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, we will read two memoirs: Elie Wiesel's Night and Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz. Poetry—especially by Nelly Sachs, Paul Celan, and Dan Pagis—will turn us toward two survivors who composed short stories: Tadeusz Borowski and Ida Fink. Taken together, all of this work will engage us in comprehending the role of art in the face of disaster. To think about this issue with some sophistication, we will draw on philosophical approaches to it by thinkers like Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Maurice Blanchot (which will be available on electronic reserve).

With this grounding in primary documents, we will spend the rest of the semester studying the trans-national impact of the Shoah on contemporary North American and British writers who did not personally undergo the catastrophe. Fictional treatments will probably include Martin Sherman's Bent, Art Spiegelman's Maus, Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl, Philip Roth’s, The Ghost Writer, Alan Isler's The Prince of West End Avenue, Anita Desai's Baumgartner's Bombay, and Aryeh Lev Stollman's The Far Euphrates. During the final weeks of the course, we will work together to compile an anthology of British and North American verse about the Holocaust.

Most class sessions will include some lecturing, some class discussion. Besides the midterm and final exams, two papers are required. In the first, of approximately 5 pages, students will be asked to deal with one aspect (thematic or formal) of first- generation (survivor) literature. In the second, of approximately 8 pages, students will be able to chose a subject (related to our readings) that will enable them to undertake further independent thinking.