Pathos and Anti-Pathos by Tom Vanassche

Pathos and Anti-Pathos by Tom Vanassche

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Ruptured Affections in the Writing of the Shoah

Media and Cultural Memory

Scholarship often presumes that texts written about the Shoah, either by those directly involved in it or those writing its history, must always bear witness to the affective aftermath of the event, the lingering emotional effects of suffering. Drawing on the History of Emotions and on trauma theory, this monograph offers a critical study of the ambivalent attributions and expressions of emotion and “emotionlessness” in the literature and historiography of the Shoah. It addresses three phenomena: the metaphorical discourses by which emotionality and the purported lack thereof are attributed to victims and to perpetrators; the rhetoric of affective self-control and of affective distancing in fiction, testimony and historiography; and the poetics of empathy and the status of emotionality in discourses on the Shoah. Through a close analysis of a broad corpus centred around the work of W. G. Sebald, Dieter Schlesak, Ruth Klüger and Raul Hilberg, the book critically contextualises emotionality and its attributions in the post-war era, when a scepticism of pathos coincided with demands for factual rigidity. Ultimately, it invites the reader to reflect on their own affective stances towards history and its commemoration in the twenty-first century.

Year first published: 2022

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