Responses to catastrophe from Henri Barbusse to Primo Levi : rethinking the Great War and the Holocaust in literary history
This thesis examines how the First World War and the Holocaust fit into Western history and literary history by. It takes as its point of departure two arguments that currently enjoy, the favor of many specialists. First, it critiques the idea that the literature of the First World War is firmly embedded in the Western literary heritage while that of the Holocaust lies outside the realm of expression, a position that Jay Winter has taken a leading role in developing. Second, it challenges the notion that the Holocaust is an occurrence in history to which no other event offers parallels. The study argues that these points of view obscure our understanding of each disaster. In reality, personal narratives demonstrate that many survivors responded to the First World War and the Holocaust in similar ways. If this is true, then the Great War cannot be firmly embedded in the European cultural tradition while the Holocaust destroys it. A more accurate representation is that the first episode of industrial mass slaughter, the Great War, initiated a rupture in the Western historical and literary heritage that the Holocaust completed.