This course studies how art, literature, film, and other media can provide a perspective on one of the most horrific events in human history, the Holocaust: the genocidal murder of more than six million men, women, and children (mostly Jewish) under the Nazi regime during World War II. The course examines the theoretical questions involved in any attempt to capture what appears to be beyond comprehension in terms of moral outrage and the sheer scale, inhumanity, and bureaucratic efficiency of the violence perpetrated by the Nazis. This course examines formal approaches of depicting the Holocaust in literature and film, as well as photography, museum installations, and memorials. Topics to be discussed include include memorialization (Holocaust museums and memorials), mass murder of the disabled, national guilt, survivor's guilt, stigmatization, and the ethics of historical representation. The course will analyze cinematic strategies for representing the unrepresentable, dark humor about the Holocaust, the persistence of the past, Nazi propaganda, Holocaust photography, trauma theories, graphic novels, the Nuremberg trials, survivor memoirs, representations of the Nuremberg Code and the International Bill of Norms, and possibilities for art after Auschwitz.
This course offers students a working analytical familiarity with the history of Jewish writing in the United States (in North American context) and with both the history and the current state of professional study of it. Attention will be paid both to dominant and alternative narratives of this literature. Major historical topics include the earliest, pre-19th century Jewish writers in America; 19th century Jewish American writers; writers of the great Ashkenazi immigration wave of 1881-1924; interwar proletarian and modernist writers; postwar writers of assimilation; the mainstreaming of Jewish American literature in the 1950s and 1960s; post-"breakthrough" Jewish American writers; and 21st-century Jewish American literature and the new immigration. The course analyzes the development of the professional field of Jewish American literary study, including its prehistory and origins in Wissenschaft-based historicism; the professionalization of the field in the Viet Nam era; the growing dominance of so-called New Jewish Cultural Studies of the `80s and `90s; and new theoretical approaches of the first decades of the 21st century. Finally, the course examines the key debates and faultlines in the field today, including the divide between historicist and critical approaches; differences between English Department-based and Jewish Studies-based Jewish American literary study; the situation of Jewish American literary study vis-à-vis Americanist literary study and English Department-based literary study more generally; Cultural Studies-based approaches to the field vs. Literary Studies-based approaches; Comparativist approaches vs. non-Comparativist approaches; the move toward interdisciplinarity; and the ongoing struggle to theorize the field.
Creative projects, including nonthesis research, that are supervised on an individual basis and which fall outside the scope of formal courses.