Representing the Holocaust

Module code: EN3141

Module co-ordinator: Dr Victoria Stewart

In this module we will examine works by Holocaust survivors, the children of Holocaust survivors, and those who have no direct connection with the Holocaust but nevertheless feel impelled to write about it. The events of the Holocaust have often been described as 'unrepresentable', yet writers and film makers continue to attempt to encompass them in their work. This often requires the reconsideration of some of art's traditional functions, such as entertainment or the evoking of pleasure, and traditional forms, such as the novel, have to be re-thought. We will consider what effect the Holocaust has had on literary culture, and how works of art might influence our understanding of this historical event.

Texts to be examined will include autobiographical writing by Primo Levi and Anne Frank; novels by Martin Amis (Time's Arrow), Robert Harris (Fatherland), and Bernhard Schlink (The Reader); the film Schindler's List; and Art Spiegelman's graphic novel Maus.


The module is taught through weekly two-hour seminars devoted to You will be expected to participate in discussion of the relevant set text. Additional written or audio-visual material provided by the tutor will assist in establishing the context of the various works under examination. By the end of the module, you will have:

  • An awareness of the range of genres -- autobiography, fiction, film -- that have been employed to represent the Holocaust
  • An understanding of the literary, critical, and theoretical issues surrounding the analysis of Holocaust-related texts and how these might be applied in textual analysis
  • An awareness of the ethical and political issues influencing the depiction of the Holocaust in contemporary European and American culture


  • An essay of not more than 5,000 words