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Unit information: Representing the Holocaust in 2015/16

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Unit name Representing the Holocaust
Unit code GERM32054
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Debbie Pinfold
Open unit status Open




School/department Department of German
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Theodor Adorno's statement in 1951 that it was 'barbaric' to write poetry after Auschwitz has been variously (mis)interpreted by German authors as a prohibition on art after and especially about the Holocaust and as a challenge to find new aesthetic strategies. This unit will take Adorno's comment as a starting point for exploring a wide range of different artistic responses to the Holocaust, including memorials, documentary film and theatre, autobiography, narrative fiction, poetry, graphic novels and feature films. Texts considered will range from the immediate post-war period to the present day in order to chart developing attitudes to this material and consider what aesthetic strategies may be most appropriate/effective in dealing with it. Students will be encouraged to develop their capacity for critical analysis through close reading and seminar discussion.


  • To familiarise students with a range of artistic responses to the Holocaust and the critical debates surrounding them
  • To develop students' capacity for critical analysis and independent research
  • To develop their ability to present their ideas in both oral and written form
  • To complement and build on other units offered by the German department

The unit is open subject to sufficient knowledge of German.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Gain an overview of debates surrounding the artistic representation of the Holocaust
  • Be able to analyse texts dealing with this topic and relate them to their historical and artistic context
  • Develop their capacity for informed discussion, critical analysis and independent research
  • Develop their ability to present their own arguments in a structured form, both orally and in writing.

Teaching Information

Students will be introduced to the broad context by means of informal lectures. The unit will be taught mainly through seminar discussions based on students close reading of the set texts, which will be supported by worksheets to be prepared before classes. Students will also be expected to deliver short oral presentations based on their own reading and research.

Assessment Information

2 essays of approximately 3,000 words, each counting for 50% of the unit mark

Reading and References

  • Adorno, Theodor, Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft (1951)
  • Becker, Jurek, Jakob der Lügner (1969)
  • Celan, Paul, 'Todesfuge' (1952)
  • Klager, Ruth, weiter leben: Eine Jugend (1992)
  • Lanzmann, Claude, Shoah (1985)
  • Weiss, Peter, Die Ermittlung (1965)