Marc Caplan will deliver a lecture titled, The Ethics of Holocaust Representation: Isaac Bashevis Singer and American Fiction, on September 13, 2023 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm at Haldeman Center 041. The event is co-sponsored by Jewish Studies and The Ethics Institute. FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.
The Nobel Prize winning Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer was not a Holocaust survivor and was reluctant to depict American life in his fiction. Yet by the late 1950s the Holocaust begins to figure prominently in his fiction, not in spite of his residence in the US, but as a means of negotiating and representing his status as an American writer. This process begins at a time when other Jewish American writers and filmmakers also adopt the theme of the Holocaust simultaneously to represent Jewish life to American audiences and American life to Jews. Why do American Jewish writers in the 1960s and 70s feel compelled to depict the Holocaust, and why do their depictions typically focus on the life of survivors in New York City? How does the Holocaust function not so much as a metaphor or allegory as a fantasm, a figure of apocalypse and insanity, as an index of life in post-war America? What are the ethics of using the Holocaust as a means of representation for contemporary American life--or for using the Holocaust as a means of representation of anything at all?