Winter Semester 2022/2023

Jewish Autobiographies after 1945.

Authors, Texts, and Debates

Dr. Nicolas Berg

Thursdays, 11.15 a.m. to 12.45 p.m.

Start: 13 October 2022

Dubnow Institute, Goldschmidtstr. 28, Leipzig

Seminar Language: German

The author Barbara Honigmann once characterized autobiography – along with letters and diaries – as »entrusted writing:« This genre, Honigmann contended, concerns the narration of »daily stories« that will one day turn out to have been the substance »that makes up history at large.« Seen from this perspective, Jewish autobiographies and survivor testimonies after 1945 unite objectivity and subjectivity in a special way: They are committed to historical insight while at the same time representing sites of literary quests for an individual and appropriate language with which to represent the author’s own experiences. Many of these books have by today been included in the canon of German-language literature after the Holocaust, for example Jean Améry’s »Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne« (1966), Gershom Scholem’s »Von Berlin nach Jerusalem« (1977, 1982/1994), Ruth Klüger’s »weiter leben« (1992), and Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s »Mein Leben« (1999). Current research both in historiography and literary scholarship approaches various forms of autobiographical text both from a historical and literary perspective, as these texts demand such a dual gaze.

This seminar offers the opportunity to explore case studies of this double belonging of autobiography to both the fields of history and literature. It demands not only a high volume of reading, but also a willingness to engage with theoretical and methodological questions on historical literature: How is historical insight related to literary knowledge? What forms of objectivity and subjectivity make up the logic of autobiography? What language do these texts offer to their readers? Participants are expected to prepare an oral presentation on a work of their choice in the course of the seminar as well as a written development of this presentation in the form of an essay.

Literature: Markus Roth, Sascha Feuchert (eds.), Holocaust – Zeugnis – Literatur. 20. Werke wieder gelesen, Göttingen 2018; Markus Malo, Behauptete Subjektivität. Eine Skizze zur deutschsprachigen jüdischen Autobiographie im 20. Jahrhundert, Tübingen 2009; Barbara Honigmann, Das Gesicht wiederfinden. Über Schreiben, Schriftsteller und Judentum, München, Wien 2006; als Hilfsmittel eignen sich: Gudrun Wedel, Autobiographien von Frauen. Ein Lexikon, Köln, Weimar, Wien 2010; Markus Malo, Bibliographie deutschsprachiger jüdischer Autobiographien. Von der Aufklärung bis zur Gegenwart, Berlin, Bern, Wien 2020.

Open to mature age students: no
Participation is limited to 20 people.