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Course Description

Anne Frank & Hitler: Studies in the Representation of Good & Evil (3 cr)
Alvin Rosenfeld
JSTU-J 203 Arts & Humanities Topics in Jewish Studies (5300) / HON-H 234 Literature of Time & Place (5814)
TR 3:00-4:15
GenEd A&H, CASE A&H; credit given for only one of J203 or HON-H 234 with this topic. 3.5 GPA or higher required or be Hutton Honors College Student. Email for departmental consent.

Well known as historical figures, both Hitler and Anne Frank long ago began to take on symbolic dimensions--he as the 20th century’s leading personification of evil, and she as girlhood innocence despoiled by unspeakable anguish and condemned to an early death. In novels, stories, poems, plays, films, and other media, their images have evolved in interesting ways over time and in different cultures. This course aims to encourage students to critically examine these changes and, in so doing, to learn how history is penetrated by the shaping powers of imagination and transfigured into something like a modern mythology. Students in this course will learn how to become critically engaged with a range of literary and other artistic genres and to see how complex a phenomenon the representation of the past can be. Finally, given the two figures we will be focusing on—the first, a major perpetrator of genocidal crimes, the second, the most celebrated and cherished of teenage victims—they will be encouraged to think hard about questions of good and evil.

Readings for the course will include:

  • Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl: Definitive Edition (Bantam)
  • Frances Goodrich, The Diary of Anne Frank (Dramatists Play Service)
  • Ron Rosenbaum, Explaining Hitler (DeCapo Press, Updated Edition, 2014)
  • Alvin H. Rosenfeld, The End of the Holocaust (Indiana University Press)
  • Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer (Knopf)
  • George Steiner, The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (University of Chicago Press)
  • In addition to the above, there will be some handouts of essays and short stories, and several films will be shown.

Written work for the course will include two medium-length papers (approximately 10-12 pages each) and two in-class examination. These writing assignments are mandatory for all students. The final examination will be optional. You will also be asked to give a brief oral report on some independent research you will be conducting on course themes (instructions for this assignment will be discussed at our first meeting and also will appear on a separate sheet).

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.

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 to discuss any aspect of their work in the course. Feel free to call me (855-2325) or contact me through e-mail ( for a special appointment.