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Indiana University Bloomington
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Course Description

Literature of the Holocaust (3 cr)
Alvin Rosenfeld
JSTU-J 203 Arts & Humanities Topics in Jewish Studies (6307) / HON-H 234 Literature of Time & Place (6921)
TR 2:30-3:45 (SY 001)
P: Students must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher or be Hutton Honors College students
GenEd A&H, CASE A&H; credit given for only one of J203 or HON-H 234 with this topic

Among the most compelling literatures of our day is that which records and seeks to interpret the Nazi war of genocide against the Jews. This course will introduce students to this literature and encourage them to reflect upon many of the profound questions it raises. Some of these questions will focus on literature’s role in the shaping of historical memory. How the past is represented and comes to acquire a future in collective memory will be a preoccupying concern. Other questions will focus on issues of the most serious cultural, intellectual, moral, ethical, and religious kind. For instance, if it is true, as Elie Wiesel claims, that at Auschwitz not only man died but also the idea of man, how do we now conceive of the human? What does a person become when nothing is any longer forbidden him? Why did law, art, intellect, and religion not defend against political barbarism? Is idealism of any kind still possible after Auschwitz? Is forgiveness possible? These and related questions will preoccupy us over the course of the semester. 

The list of required readings includes the following: Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen; Jan Gross, Neighbors; Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy; Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz; Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved; Bernard Schlink, The Reader; Elie Wiesel, Night; Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower.

In addition to the above, there will be some handouts of essays and poetry, and two or three films will be shown. Written work for the course will include two medium-length papers (approximately 10-12 pages each) and one or two in-class examinations. These writing assignments are mandatory for all students.  Strong writing skills will be a decided asset for students taking this course, so strive to do your very best to make sure your written work measures up to university standards. Please see me or my teaching assistant if you have any questions about your writing. We will do our best to help you.

Given the nature of the subject matter, this will be a demanding course. Students will be expected to do the assigned readings on time, attend all class meetings, and participate actively in class discussion. If you must miss a class session, please be sure to let me know in advance. Any more than 3 unexcused absences will lower your grade for the course. Students are encouraged to see me during office hours, TR 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. to discuss any aspect of their work in the course. If these times are not convenient, please call me (855- 2325) or contact me through e-mail ( for a special appointment.