Imagined witness : representing the Holocaust in American women's fiction
This thesis explores representations of the Holocaust in fiction by American women writers who have no autobiographical involvement with the Holocaust. It demonstrates that their texts comprise fictional meditations on the meaning of testimony, and are concerned with the ways in which narrators and readers of testimonies remember and imagine the Holocaust. The introduction outlines the key thematic, formal and theoretical concerns of the thesis within their academic context. It proposes that a self-reflexive awareness of the subjectivity and constructedness of Holocaust representation in fiction provides insight into valuable and necessary processes of the imagination. Four chapters examine different approaches to the imagination. The first interprets Norma Rosen's Touching Evil through her notion of witness-through-the-imagination. Drawing on concepts such as empathy, identification, secondary trauma and the addressee, it explores the meaning of Holocaust testimony for the reader. The second considers the subjectivity of memory by comparing the testimonies and memories of the traumatised survivor protagonists in the historical novels of Susan Fromberg Schaeffer's Anya and Sherri Szeman's The Kommandant's Mistress. The third chapter analyses the imagination as an alternative reality for mourning the past in Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl. It also engages with the dialectic between personal and collective memory through notions of ethnic uprootedness and assimilation. The fourth addresses the fantastical imagination of the Holocaust in the fiction of Judy Budnitz through her use of various literary genres and complex narratological and metafictional devices that draw attention to the acts of storytelling and witnessing. In conclusion, the thesis shows that this body of Holocaust texts examines fiction as a meaningful tool to bridge and to draw attention to the gaps between experience and representation. It broadens the implications of bearing witness due to their discourses about the significant mediation of imaginary realities.