Term of Award
Master of Arts in English (M.A.)
Document Type and Release Option
Thesis (open access)
Copyright Statement / License for Reuse
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Department of Literature and Philosophy
Committee Member 1
Committee Member 2
Representing large-scale historical traumatic events can be problematic as accounts are often subjective and biased. It is difficult to determine if the subjective historical account is factually accurate or not. When discussing the Holocaust, representation is an important factor. How is the Holocaust represented? This paper shows how literature can fill in the gaps of historical representation. I focus on psychoanalyst Dori Laub’s three levels of the witness and their role in testimony in relation to Holocaust literature. For Laub, the first level witness is the primary account from the person who experienced the trauma. The second level witness is who the first level witness shares his/her story with. The third level witness observes the process of witnessing between the first and second witnesses. Laub’s ideas on witnessing and testifying are heightened when paired with Paul Ricoeur’s notion of attestation, which is the act of believing in the speech of the testifier. For many Holocaust survivors, speaking about the traumas endured was extremely difficult. Often the only evidence survivors had of their experiences was their testimony. As a survivor goes through the process of attestation, he/she asks listeners to believe in his/her testimony. I trace Laub’s three levels of the witness in Primo Levi’s memoir If This Is a Man, Elie Wiesel’s fictional Day, and W.G. Sebald’s journey novel Austerlitz. Tracing the three levels of the witness in each text, demonstrates Ricoeur’s notion of attestation, which provides new insight into the representation of large-scale historical traumatic events.
Capizzi, Marissa, "Representing the Holocaust: Bearing Witness in Levi, Wiesel, and Sebald" (2020). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2052.
Research Data and Supplementary Material
German Literature Commons, Jewish Studies Commons, Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority Commons