nl en

Cultural memory: Shoah in monuments, art, film and literature


Admission requirements

Propedeuse Humanities


Collective memory of the Shoah is produced by testimonies such as Anne Frank’s diary, by documentaries such as Lanzmanns Shoah, by works of literature, by mainstream movies such as Schindler’s List, or in artworks, musea and memorial sites. In the dual context of both memory studies and representation analysis we will look at the different functions and effects that such works have and have had over time in the construction of cultural memory.
In this interactive class, the central topics of Shoah-memory will be discussed: memory and oblivion, truth and event, documentataion, the archive, sacralisation, irony, autobiography, Shoah-idols, aura and authenticity, and the function of mass-media. Among the cases discussed will be sites like ‘De Hollandsche Schouwburg’ and the Anne Frank House, digital monuments such as the Dutch online Jewish monument, work by Abel Herzberg, Carl Friedman, Armando, Primo Levi, Georges Perec, Steven Reich, Yael Bartana and Arnon Grunberg.
Representation analysis will demonstrate in which ways the Shoah is represented, and we will study the different ways in which trauma manifests itself and how collective memory is constructed by the different representations. Theoretical texts by Giorgio Agamben, Saul Friedlander, Marianne Hirsch, Ernst van Alphen and Ann Rigney will be used in our analyses.

Course objectives

You will acquire knowledge of cultural memory- and representation theory and additionally become aware of cultural dynamics in the representation of historical events in art, literature and memorial sites. You will be trained in the analysis of the signification strategies and effects of the objects under scrutiny. In this course, you will also learn to write and present well argumented interpretations of such works, and you will be able to recognize the icons, idols and clichés of Shoah representations.


See the timetable of Nederlandse taal en cultuur

Mode of instruction

  • Weekly Seminar 3 hours

Course Load

140 hours:

  • Seminars: 42 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature and preparing the assignments: 42 hours

  • Time for reading the primary literature: 30

  • (If applicable) time to write a paper (including reading / research): 26 hours

Assessment method

Essay (40%)
Two weekly assigmnents (40%)
Presentation 20%

For each part of the assessment at least a 5.0 should be obtained. The final grade is the weighted average of all grades.

Only the essay can be taken again


Blackboard will be used for communication and to pass on announcements and information about the content of the course.

Reading list

  • Primo Levi, If this is a man. Translation Stuart Woolf.

  • Arnon Grunberg, De Asielzoeker.

  • Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and after.

  • Tadeusz Borowski, This way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.

  • Art Spiegelman, Maus, 2 parts.

  • Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank.

  • Alphen, E. Van. (1997) Caught by history. Holocaust effects in Contemporary Art, Literature and Theory. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

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

  • Anne Rothe, Popular trauma culture: Selling the pain of others in the mass media, Rutgers University Press 2011. (Two chapters).

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

  • Sue Vice, Holocaust fiction. Routledge 2000. (Introduction).


Registration via uSis

Registration Contractonderwijs

Registration Contractonderwijs


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.
Elementary knowledge of theory of representation is expected. External students could consider reading an introduction to representation such as Stuart Hall: Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices.