The Ethics of Holocaust Representation in the French Postmodern Novel

  • Helena Duffy (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


The last two decades have seen a proliferation of French Holocaust novels that, additionally, bear the stamp of postmodernism. This means that the works such as Patrick Modiano’s Dora Bruder (1997), Pierre Assouline’s La Cliente (1998), Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones (2006) or Yannick Haenel’s Messenger (2010) programmatically problematize the very possibility of acquiring (historical) knowledge, insist upon the subjective, interpretative and (inter)textual rather than empirical nature of History and favour multiplicity, plurality, fragmentation and indeterminacy. Because many associate postmodern art with the deployment of parodic, fantastic or ludic elements, as well as with the questioning and relativisation of Truth, several of the recent French Holocaust novels have become a source of major controversies, frequently attracting criticism from historians. The aim of this talk is therefore to address the ethics of the figurations of the Shoah, whose uniqueness and sacredness for some precludes any experimental or even aestheticizing approaches to its representation. Illustrated with specific examples, my discussion will be informed by theoretical writings of, among others, Hayden White, Linda Hutcheon, Brian McHale and Dan Stone.
Period17 Jan 2018
Held atThe Polish University Abroad in London


  • Postmodernism
  • Holocaust