Literary Responses to the Holocaust


How do we read and write about catastrophe, disaster, and trauma? If, as some theorists posit, language is unable to adequately convey the atrocity of genocide, then what is achieved by the vast number of authors who take the Holocaust as their subject?

This course will introduce students to the innovations, diversity, and complexity of Holocaust literature. Progressing chronologically, it will investigate how geography, time period, class, gender, age, and ethnicity affect literary responses to the Holocaust. The quantity of Holocaust literature produced during and after World War II is comprised of a wide variety of genres and modes, and we will pay close attention to narrative strategies and stylistic tools employed by authors who deal with the limits of representation that the Holocaust imposes. Alongside our primary texts, we will consider trends in Holocaust literature that influence how it is written and read, such as trauma theory, the pressure of realism, the push toward postmodernism, the Americanization of the Holocaust, children’s Holocaust literature, and Holocaust allegory/fantasy.             

Possible texts include: poetry by Ilya Selvinsky, Hirsch Glick, Abraham Sutzkever, Itzik Feffer; The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank; Brundibar (Krasa/Hoffmeister/Saudek and Kushner/Sendak versions); The Journal of Hélène Berr by Hélène Berr; Night by Elie Wiesel; The Pawnbroker by Edward Lewis Wallant; Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz; The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth; Upon the Head of a Goat by Aranka Siegal; The Drowned and the Saved by Primo Levi; The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick; Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman; Neighbors by Jan Gross; Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs; Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott.

Breadth Requirement: None.

Area of Interest:

  • Jewish Cultures, Languages, and Literatures
  • Jewish History and Social Sciences


Day/Time Instructors Location
W2–4 Krongold, Joanna TBA