The Presence and the Absence of the Holocaust in Contemporary Jewish American Literature: The Particularist and the Universalist Path in Addressing the Legacy of this European Disaster
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This thesis focuses on the approach of the Holocaust in contemporary Jewish American literature. It explores the distinction made by literary scholar Alan L. Berger’s between “universalism” and “particularism” as the two main paths contemporary Jewish American writers take in approaching the Holocaust and its aftermath in their fiction. In this thesis, the work of authors Melvin Jules Bukiet, Thane Rosenbaum, Rachel Kadish, and Nathan Englander is analysed. The first section discusses theoretical notions such as Marianne Hirsch’s “postmemory” and Dominick LaCapra’s “the ethnics of empathy”. Subsequently, this terminology is used to discuss the theme of memory in regard to the Holocaust in Bukiet’s “Himmler’s Chickens” (1995) and Kadish’s “The Argument” (2003). The second section analyses short stories which deal as a prism through which to view experiences of deportation and discusses Rosenbaum’s “Cattle Car Complexes” (1999) and Englander’s “The Tumblers” (1999). The final section brings the analyses of Bukiet’s and Rosenbaum’s stories, which have a more particularist view, and Kadish’s and Englander’s stories, which have a more universalist focus, together and draw a conclusion. Based on this conclusion, the final section provides insight in the strong presence of the Holocaust in contemporary Jewish American literature.