COMP 280
Art at its Limits: Representing the Holocaust
Last Offered Fall 2019
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed JWST 280 / GERM 280
This course is not offered in the current catalog

Class Details

The Holocaust poses unique challenges to art: it is an event that unsettles the very notion of representation while, at the same time, also demanding it. Art, after all, is a mode of witnessing as well as a form of commemoration; it allows survivors to record their testimony and later generations to remember. Yet the representation of suffering can all too easily become exploitative or aestheticizing, it can turn pain into entertainment and history into fiction. How, then, do writers, artists, and filmmakers navigate the representation of the Shoah if it resists comprehension and undermines traditional forms of narrative? In this course, we will ask if and how art can do justice to a catastrophe of such magnitude as the Holocaust by analyzing different forms of media from a variety of cultural backgrounds. What can poetry offer that remains foreclosed to prose? Was Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus really in bad taste? How should documentaries approach the Shoah, and is there a place for Hollywood films in the archives of commemoration? Texts among others by Tadeusz Borowski, Tadeusz RĂ³’ewicz, Art Spiegelman, Paul Celan, Primo Levi, Sylvia Plath, Hannah Arendt, Theodor W. Adorno, Jacques Derrida, and Maurice Blanchot; films by Quentin Tarantino, Claude Lanzmann, Pawe’ Pawlikowski, and Steven Spielberg.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 20
Expected: 14
Class#: 1345
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: three 2-page critical responses, oral presentation, final project
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: German and Comparative Literature majors
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
JWST 280 Division II COMP 280 Division I GERM 280 Division I
WS Notes: Three 2-page papers spaced over the course of the semester on which students will receive detailed feedback and which they will be able to revise; the final project will either be a 10-page paper or a creative project accompanied by a 4-page reflection that will consider the creative component in relation to the themes of the course. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
DPE Notes: This course will examine how art can help us think about the catastrophic abuses of power in the Third Reich. While many of the texts we will examine focus on the stories of Jewish people, the class will also consider how the narratives of other persecuted groups, including the Sinti and Roma, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ victims and survivors, relate to and differ from these experiences.

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