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Shoah-icons in (Dutch) art and literature


Admission requirements

A BA in Humanities
Proficiency in English is neccesary.


How does one represent the ‘unrepresentable’? In order to answer that question, we will talk about the Shoah, about Adorno’s interdiction to write poetry after Auschwitz, and about works of art that were made anyway. Representation analysis will demonstrate in which ways memory is produced, and how trauma manifests itself. In this interactive class, the central topics of Shoah art and literature will be discussed: sacralisation, irony, autobiography, Shoah-idols, aura and authenticity, the function of mass-media.
Even though the most particular and singular stories are told, they do often make use of existing ‘ shoah-icons’ and idols. What is the effect of this intertextuality in these works, and how does it relate to questions of authenticity? Talking about these issues of (Un)representability’ implies that not only Shoah-representations, but core questions in any representation analysis will be at stake.
Among the cases discussed will be: Herzberg, Carl Friedman, Armando, Charlotte Delbo, Georges Perec, Arnon Grunberg, Yael Bartana, Claude Lanzmann, etc.

Students with doubts about the level of their English should consider taking an autumn course here:
If that is not possible, please contact Yra van Dijk.

Course objectives

You will acquire deep knowledge of the different ways in which memory may be represented in art and literature, and additionally become aware of cultural dynamics in the representation of historical events. In this course, you will also learn to write and present well argumented and theoretically strong interpretations of such works, and you will be able to recognize the icons, idols and clichés of Shoah representation.


See the imetable of Nederlandse taal en cultuur.

Mode of instruction


Course Load

10 EC = 280 hous
Seminar: 2 hours per week x 13 weeks = 26 hours
Preparation classes: 13 × 4 hours = 52 hours
Reading literature: 104 hous
Research and final paper: 98 hours

Assessment method

  • Paper (80%)

  • Oral presentation and participation during the classes (20%).


Reading list

* Agamben, G. (1999) Remnants of Auschwitz. The witness and the archive. New York: Zone

  • Alphen, E. Van. (1997) Caught by history. Holocaust effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
    * Friedlander, S. (1994) Trauma, Memory, and Transference.” Holocaust Remembrance: the Shapes of Memory. Ed. Geoffrey H. Hartman. Oxford: Blackwell.

  • Friedlander, S. (ed.). Probing the limits of representation. Nazism and ‘the final solution’. Cambridge, Ma, Harvard University Press

  • Stier, O.B. (2003) Committed to memory. Cultural Mediations of the Holocaust. Amherst and Boston, University of Massachusetts Pres


Via uSis


Mw. prof. dr. Y. van Dijk.