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Journal Article

Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation

01 Apr 2008-Women’s Studies Quarterly (Feminist Press)-Vol. 36, pp 297
TL;DR: In Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation, the authors, the import of aesthetic pleasure in shifting modes of Holocaust representation ranging from French and German literature and the visual arts to architectural sites in North America and Germany is explored.
Abstract: BRETT ASHLEY KAPLAN'S UNWANTED BEAUTY: AESTHETIC PLEASURE IN HOLOCAUST REPRESENTATION, URBANA: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS, 2007 ERIC KLIGERMAN In her rich comparative study Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation, Brett Ashley Kaplan probes the import of aesthetic pleasure in shifting modes of Holocaust representation ranging from French and German literature and the visual arts to architectural sites in North America and Germany Rather than contributing to an ethical rupture, Kaplan argues, "beautiful representations can enhance Holocaust remembrance" (2) Contrary to Hal Foster's demonization of beauty, Kaplan joins other scholars who see a resurgence of aesthetic pleasure in literature and art However, Kaplan goes one step further by reading beauty alongside Holocaust representations Unwanted Beauty complements other recent works that investigate various aesthetic strategies of witnessing the Shoah in relation to questions of affect But counter to Weissman's Fantasies of Witnessing and Landsberg's concept of prosthetic memory, where each scholar examines how the nonwitness desires to feel the horrors of the Holocaust, Kaplan asserts that art does not need to terrorize in order to deepen our understanding of trauma Instead, "'illicit' aesthetic pleasure of unwanted beauty" (3) helps in the construction of Holocaust memory and "deepenfs] [the] search for Holocaust understanding" (20) Kaplan tracks the development of aesthetic pleasure from its use as a survival tool in the literature of primary witnesses to a device that catalyzes memory of the nonwitness Following her theoretical discussion of the beautiful and sublime, she probes in chapter 1 how aesthetic pleasure in the works of Celan and Delbo assists in their survival; chapter 2 continues with an exploration of how the transformative powers of beauty in Semprun's novels help him come to terms with his traumatic memory; chapter 3 shows how Jabes's aesthetic allusions to the Holocaust shift the task of witnessing to the reader, who is compelled to uncover poetry's traumatic residue; chapter 4 examines the function of visual pleasure in Kiefer and Boltanski and the degrees to which they aestheticize mourning Unwanted Beauty concludes with an analysis of the tensions between aesthetic pleasure and architecture as Kaplan rejects critics' tendencies to read monumental aesthetics as fascistic Kaplan's introduction presents the ethical implications of rendering the Holocaust into beautiful forms, and she repudiates the three interdictions against beauty most often invoked by critics: Adorno's critique that poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric, the position that the uniqueness of the Holocaust requires a new mode of representation to confront its horrors, and the assumption that beauty is indicative of a particular fascist aesthetics While scholars such as Lyotard link the Holocaust to the crisis of representation by invoking Kant's sublime and exalting the disruption of the artwork, Kaplan denies the premise that beautiful art is a disservice to traumatic memory Although her theoretical model would benefit from a closer analysis of what in particular constitutes beauty and sensual pleasure, her incisive, close readings of literary and visual texts help illuminate some of these distinct features of aesthetic pleasure Chapter 1 begins by returning to the oft-discussed polemic between Adorno's critique of poetry after Auschwitz and Celan's signature poem, "Death Fugue" But what makes this chapter so compelling are Kaplan's provocative readings of Delbo and Proust Moving away from Freud's model of traumatic memory, Kaplan foregrounds instead the intricacies of Proust's figure of memory and its associations with sensual pleasure The invocation of how pleasure evokes memory in Remembrance of Things Past-the nostalgia induced by a madeleine soaked in tea-functions as the template to how unwanted beauty influences Holocaust memory …
Citations
More filters
01 Jan 2006
TL;DR: In a follow-up study, this paper found that the eliciting conditions for sadness prominently include the two just mentioned, which are closely related to the prototype of happiness as romantic union.
Abstract: ion. For example, one of their categories is “Undesirable outcome” (1074), which seems to be at a level of abstraction above such categories as “Death of a loved one” and “Loss of a relationship” (1074; indeed, the second seems to be a case of the third which seems, in turn, to be a case of the first). But, insofar as they are concrete enough to count as prototypical, the categories they uncover are clearly in line with the preceding analysis. Thus, the eliciting conditions for sadness prominently include the two just mentioned, which are closely related to the prototype of happiness as romantic union. Other prototypes include “Discovering one is powerless” (1074), which is clearly related to the prototype of happiness as power. In relation to happiness itself, they isolate only three categories that are not overly abstract. These are “Receiving esteem, respect, praise,” “Being accepted, belonging,” and “Receiving love, liking, affection” (1075). The first is clearly connected with the prototype of happiness as power or authority. The third category is clearly related to the prototype of happiness as romantic union. The second category relates to both. Indeed, it relates to both in a way that bears on emplotment. Commonly, the conflicts that define the middle of a plot are resolved in such a way that the larger society comes together and there is an extension of acceptance and belonging in the end (e.g., through the reconciliation of parents and children in the romantic plot). In short, we seem to have some good prima facie evidence for positing two happiness prototypes. The point is not confined to modern America and Europe. Clearly, there were no broad scientific surveys or controlled experimental studies of emotion in premodern societies. However, there are highly regarded discussions and widely accepted ideas—such as the ancient Indic isolation of goals—that provide converging evidence. For example, Chikamatsu, widely thought of as one of the two greatest dramatists of Japan, wrote that, “The only happiness in this broad world” is “True love to true love” (234). The celebrated Malian Epic of Son-Jara states that “All people . . . seek to be men of power” (Sisòkò, I. 1277–78). Euripides’ Hecuba expresses both, lamenting the death of Astyanax: “if you had enjoyed youth and wedlock and the royal power that makes men gods, then you would have been happy” (200). These literary references lead to the second line of research. In order to consider cross-cultural prototypes in narrative, I set out to read a wide range of highly esteemed works of verbal art in unrelated literary traditions. I took up highly esteemed works as it seemed that they were most likely to express common narrative and emotional tendencies in a given culture or period. One crucial feature of a prototype-based account of

77 citations

Dissertation
17 Dec 2012
TL;DR: In this article, a comparative framework for understanding representations of Jewishness in Jewish, post-colonial, and Palestinian literature in response to particular historical events such as the Holocaust, the creation of the state of Israel, the first intifada, and the siege of Ramallah during the second Intifada is presented.
Abstract: My thesis creates a comparative framework for understanding representations of Jewishness in Jewish, postcolonial, and Palestinian literature in response to particular historical events such as the Holocaust, the creation of the state of Israel, the first intifada, and the siege of Ramallah during the second intifada Central to my study is the shift from Jewish identity in Europe before the creation of Jewish settlements in Palestine – as a minority identity in the Diaspora, facing discrimination and persecution in Europe, which culminated in the Holocaust – to Jewishness as Israeliness, defined in relation to the state of Israel, Zionism, and settler-colonialism My study contests ahistorical and decontextualised uses of Jewishness and each chapter proposes a different angle to engage with ideas of Jewishness in their specific historical context I examine narrative fiction and travelogues, published between 1971 and 2008, by Jurek Becker, Anita Desai, David Grossman, Shulamith Hareven, Edgar Hilsenrath, Sahar Khalifeh, Caryl Phillips, Anton Shammas, Raja Shehadeh, and A B Yehoshua Through these examples, I interrogate the political and stylistic reasons underlying the inclusion and appropriation of ideas of Jewishness in literature I suggest that literature offers alternative models of Jewishness which question received notions of Jewish victimhood and powerlessness By determining the ways in which ideas associated with Jewishness travel across different geographical locations and examining adaptations of these concepts in non-Jewish contexts, I illustrate the centrality of ideas of Jewishness in the construction and definition of identities for both Jewish and non-Jewish writers and readers and indicate the global ramifications of engaging with Jewishness for contemporary literature and culture

55 citations

Dissertation
01 Mar 2013

27 citations


Cites background from "Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure..."

  • ...In an argument that would have been equally unthinkable to Adorno’s generation, Brett Ashley Kaplan has undertaken a revaluation of aesthetically pleasing Holocaust representations, arguing that they may, through their beauty, aid memory (Kaplan, 2007)....

    [...]

01 Jan 2013
TL;DR: For example, this paper explored how many Israelis were repulsed by images used at Yad Va Shem and found that the depiction of Babi Yar as allowing the “degradation go on and on, for they are depicted as forever frightened, forever on the verge of being shot.
Abstract: memorials rise in memory of their loved ones: “we were not killed in the abstract.” Adorno wrote that there can be no poetry after the Shoah, because he thought that the artistic rendering of the “naked physical pain of those who were beaten down with riffle butts, contain, however instantly the possibility that beauty can be squeezed from it.” Museums that represent the Shoah, as well as other traumatic historical events, share a fear of the image. Many Holocaust museums use grotesque pictures to show the horror that occurred. Vera Schwarcz explored how many Israelis were repulsed by images used at Yad Va Shem. One woman described the depiction of Babi Yar as allowing the “degradation go on and on” for they are depicted as “forever frightened, forever on the verge of being shot.” A similar fear of the grotesque image finds it way to 9/11. There is a now famous picture of the “falling man,” jumping to his death right before the towers fell. Again, the image becomes aestheticized in a way that besmirches the memory of those who had to jump to their deaths. It is important to note that though the fear of aesthetics and of the image are similar the catalysts for these concerns remain different. This is exhibited through the different role of the image in Spiegelman’s two books, Maus, and In the Shadow of No Towers. While both books have a “tortured, ambivalent relationship to their own 10 David Dunlap, "Discord Over 9/11 Memorial's Symbolism," The New York Times (2006): 2. 11 Theodor W. Adorno, Can One Live after Auschwitz: A Philosophical Reader (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 252. 12 Vera Schwarcz, The Black Milk of Historical Consciousness (London, 2002), 197.

26 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors analyzed the representation of female perpetrators in Holocaust fiction films, particularly in relation to the persecution of prisoners in the Nazi camps, and argued that films have the potential to effectively explore the issue of women's complicity in the Holocaust.
Abstract: This essay analyses the representation of female perpetrators in Holocaust fiction films, particularly in relation to the persecution of prisoners in the Nazi camps. The screening of women in general, and female perpetrators in particular, is shown to be problematic due to their frequent marginalisation and the gendered, voyeuristic ways in which women’s bodies are often objectified in Holocaust films. While the actions of female perpetrators and their depiction in films pose acute problems of judgement and representation that need to be acknowledged, it is argued that films have the potential to effectively explore the issue of women’s complicity in the Holocaust.

21 citations

References
More filters
01 Jan 2006
TL;DR: In a follow-up study, this paper found that the eliciting conditions for sadness prominently include the two just mentioned, which are closely related to the prototype of happiness as romantic union.
Abstract: ion. For example, one of their categories is “Undesirable outcome” (1074), which seems to be at a level of abstraction above such categories as “Death of a loved one” and “Loss of a relationship” (1074; indeed, the second seems to be a case of the third which seems, in turn, to be a case of the first). But, insofar as they are concrete enough to count as prototypical, the categories they uncover are clearly in line with the preceding analysis. Thus, the eliciting conditions for sadness prominently include the two just mentioned, which are closely related to the prototype of happiness as romantic union. Other prototypes include “Discovering one is powerless” (1074), which is clearly related to the prototype of happiness as power. In relation to happiness itself, they isolate only three categories that are not overly abstract. These are “Receiving esteem, respect, praise,” “Being accepted, belonging,” and “Receiving love, liking, affection” (1075). The first is clearly connected with the prototype of happiness as power or authority. The third category is clearly related to the prototype of happiness as romantic union. The second category relates to both. Indeed, it relates to both in a way that bears on emplotment. Commonly, the conflicts that define the middle of a plot are resolved in such a way that the larger society comes together and there is an extension of acceptance and belonging in the end (e.g., through the reconciliation of parents and children in the romantic plot). In short, we seem to have some good prima facie evidence for positing two happiness prototypes. The point is not confined to modern America and Europe. Clearly, there were no broad scientific surveys or controlled experimental studies of emotion in premodern societies. However, there are highly regarded discussions and widely accepted ideas—such as the ancient Indic isolation of goals—that provide converging evidence. For example, Chikamatsu, widely thought of as one of the two greatest dramatists of Japan, wrote that, “The only happiness in this broad world” is “True love to true love” (234). The celebrated Malian Epic of Son-Jara states that “All people . . . seek to be men of power” (Sisòkò, I. 1277–78). Euripides’ Hecuba expresses both, lamenting the death of Astyanax: “if you had enjoyed youth and wedlock and the royal power that makes men gods, then you would have been happy” (200). These literary references lead to the second line of research. In order to consider cross-cultural prototypes in narrative, I set out to read a wide range of highly esteemed works of verbal art in unrelated literary traditions. I took up highly esteemed works as it seemed that they were most likely to express common narrative and emotional tendencies in a given culture or period. One crucial feature of a prototype-based account of

77 citations

Dissertation
17 Dec 2012
TL;DR: In this article, a comparative framework for understanding representations of Jewishness in Jewish, post-colonial, and Palestinian literature in response to particular historical events such as the Holocaust, the creation of the state of Israel, the first intifada, and the siege of Ramallah during the second Intifada is presented.
Abstract: My thesis creates a comparative framework for understanding representations of Jewishness in Jewish, postcolonial, and Palestinian literature in response to particular historical events such as the Holocaust, the creation of the state of Israel, the first intifada, and the siege of Ramallah during the second intifada Central to my study is the shift from Jewish identity in Europe before the creation of Jewish settlements in Palestine – as a minority identity in the Diaspora, facing discrimination and persecution in Europe, which culminated in the Holocaust – to Jewishness as Israeliness, defined in relation to the state of Israel, Zionism, and settler-colonialism My study contests ahistorical and decontextualised uses of Jewishness and each chapter proposes a different angle to engage with ideas of Jewishness in their specific historical context I examine narrative fiction and travelogues, published between 1971 and 2008, by Jurek Becker, Anita Desai, David Grossman, Shulamith Hareven, Edgar Hilsenrath, Sahar Khalifeh, Caryl Phillips, Anton Shammas, Raja Shehadeh, and A B Yehoshua Through these examples, I interrogate the political and stylistic reasons underlying the inclusion and appropriation of ideas of Jewishness in literature I suggest that literature offers alternative models of Jewishness which question received notions of Jewish victimhood and powerlessness By determining the ways in which ideas associated with Jewishness travel across different geographical locations and examining adaptations of these concepts in non-Jewish contexts, I illustrate the centrality of ideas of Jewishness in the construction and definition of identities for both Jewish and non-Jewish writers and readers and indicate the global ramifications of engaging with Jewishness for contemporary literature and culture

55 citations

01 Jan 2013
TL;DR: For example, this paper explored how many Israelis were repulsed by images used at Yad Va Shem and found that the depiction of Babi Yar as allowing the “degradation go on and on, for they are depicted as forever frightened, forever on the verge of being shot.
Abstract: memorials rise in memory of their loved ones: “we were not killed in the abstract.” Adorno wrote that there can be no poetry after the Shoah, because he thought that the artistic rendering of the “naked physical pain of those who were beaten down with riffle butts, contain, however instantly the possibility that beauty can be squeezed from it.” Museums that represent the Shoah, as well as other traumatic historical events, share a fear of the image. Many Holocaust museums use grotesque pictures to show the horror that occurred. Vera Schwarcz explored how many Israelis were repulsed by images used at Yad Va Shem. One woman described the depiction of Babi Yar as allowing the “degradation go on and on” for they are depicted as “forever frightened, forever on the verge of being shot.” A similar fear of the grotesque image finds it way to 9/11. There is a now famous picture of the “falling man,” jumping to his death right before the towers fell. Again, the image becomes aestheticized in a way that besmirches the memory of those who had to jump to their deaths. It is important to note that though the fear of aesthetics and of the image are similar the catalysts for these concerns remain different. This is exhibited through the different role of the image in Spiegelman’s two books, Maus, and In the Shadow of No Towers. While both books have a “tortured, ambivalent relationship to their own 10 David Dunlap, "Discord Over 9/11 Memorial's Symbolism," The New York Times (2006): 2. 11 Theodor W. Adorno, Can One Live after Auschwitz: A Philosophical Reader (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 252. 12 Vera Schwarcz, The Black Milk of Historical Consciousness (London, 2002), 197.

26 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors analyzed the representation of female perpetrators in Holocaust fiction films, particularly in relation to the persecution of prisoners in the Nazi camps, and argued that films have the potential to effectively explore the issue of women's complicity in the Holocaust.
Abstract: This essay analyses the representation of female perpetrators in Holocaust fiction films, particularly in relation to the persecution of prisoners in the Nazi camps. The screening of women in general, and female perpetrators in particular, is shown to be problematic due to their frequent marginalisation and the gendered, voyeuristic ways in which women’s bodies are often objectified in Holocaust films. While the actions of female perpetrators and their depiction in films pose acute problems of judgement and representation that need to be acknowledged, it is argued that films have the potential to effectively explore the issue of women’s complicity in the Holocaust.

21 citations