On Their Own Terms: The Challenge of Culture in Literary Depictions of Mass Violence
This project represents a disciplinary convergence between Holocaust and Postcolonial Studies. Conjunctively analysing texts in English, French and Hebrew depicting the Holocaust, South African apartheid and the Rwandan genocide, my thesis reacts against the recent critical tendency to apply Euro-American trauma theory to global occurrences of genocide and mass violence. Challenging accepted orthodoxies regarding the textual representation of trauma, I argue that the cultural, geographical and temporal specificities of these events resist arbitrary, mono-cultural theoretical evaluation. My project uses close-reading to bring culturally and historically variegated texts into dialogue regarding the literary mediation of testimony, silence, genre, representations of the victim and perpetrator, and the transgenerational reverberations of mass violence. Allowing literature to test and respond to the theoretical frameworks that define them from without, this thesis aims to develop an innovative approach to trauma and its representation that functions in a global context.