French 2211F
Understanding suffering: Holocaust and Literature

Offered in English

Course description:

This course will offer a brief description of life during the Holocaust through the reading of a few essential testimonial texts. We first will briefly survey the events and questions and place them in their proper historical, religious, human and political frames. Through the eyes of the witnesses, we shall try to understand some facets of the human tragedy that the Holocaust constitutes and how it is lived on a daily basis. The course wishes to present individual experiences of this historical event, which remains the paradigm of genocides of the XXth century.  We want to explore the ways people react to extraordinary circumstances and interact within a society where all rules have changed. We will listen to voices describing the cruelty of the executioners, the humanity of the rescuers, the passivity of the bystander and the fears of the victims. The course explores the specific experiences of several groups, including women, hidden children, freedom fighters, etc. and will try to offer a reading of the past that will facilitate the understanding of contemporary events. We shall not avoid delicate or horrific situations or sensitive ethical questions.

We will also call on some visual support. No previous knowledge of the historical, religious or political background is required.

Texts

  • Kertész, Imre, Fateless
  • Levi, Primo, If This is a man or Survival in Auschwitz (same text)
  • Wiesel, Elie, Night

Assignments

Class participation 10%
1 Reading review 20%
Film review 15%
Conversation 15%
Final research work 40%