Textual Silence: Unreadability and the Holocaust (Paperback)

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— From Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Conference


There are thousands of books that represent the Holocaust, but can, and should, the act of reading these works convey the events of genocide to those who did not experience it? In Textual Silence, literary scholar Jessica Lang asserts that language itself is a barrier between the author and the reader in Holocaust texts—and that this barrier is not a lack of substance, but a defining characteristic of the genre.  
Holocaust texts, which encompass works as diverse as memoirs, novels, poems, and diaries, are traditionally characterized by silences the authors place throughout the text, both deliberately and unconsciously. While a reader may have the desire and will to comprehend the Holocaust, the presence of “textual silence” is a force that removes the experience of genocide from the reader’s analysis and imaginative recourse. Lang defines silences as omissions that take many forms, including the use of italics and quotation marks, ellipses and blank pages in poetry, and the presence of unreliable narrators in fiction. While this limits the reader’s ability to read in any conventional sense, these silences are not flaws. They are instead a critical presence that forces readers to acknowledge how words and meaning can diverge in the face of events as unimaginable as those of the Holocaust.  

About the Author

JESSICA LANG is an associate professor of English at CUNY-Baruch College in New York, where she is the founding Newman Director of the Wasserman Jewish Studies Center.

Praise For…

"A valuable and timely resource that speaks to the necessity of ethical reading in regard to Holocaust representation." 

— Victoria Aarons

"Lang's exquisitely wrought study defines and explores the challenges of reading trauma literature, shedding light on the irony that reading does not equate to understanding."

— Alan L. Berger

Product Details
ISBN: 9780813589916
ISBN-10: 0813589916
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication Date: August 24th, 2017
Pages: 232
Language: English