Marianne Hirsch. Columbia University. Abstract Postmemory describes the relationship of the second generation to power- ful, often traumatic, experiences that. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust It is the only photograph of Lotte and Carl Hirsch, my parents, taken during the. Family Pictures: Maus, Mourning, and Post-Memory. Marianne Hirsch. All photographs are memento mori. – Susan Sontag. All such things of the war, I tried to.

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A groundbreaking book that has broad meaning for the study of traumatic memory and its creative aftermath. Selected pages Page v.

Using works of contemporary literature on the Spanish Civil War as examples, this final section illustrates how the interpretation of postmemory as a kind of trauma leads to fallacious assumptions regarding the impact of historical novels. Trauma effectively shields literary works from reproach: The act of contemplating pain is part of a reading experience that as a whole produces satisfaction.

Scholars of artistic works concerning the bloody episodes of twentieth-century history occasionally draw on postmemory simply as an adjunct among the panoply of theories wielded in defense of their object of study. The infantilization of victims tends to be accompanied, furthermore, by the depersonalization of perpetrators.

The phenomenon of postmemory as Hirsch describes it is to a certain extent incompatible with the concept of trauma.

The Generation of Postmemory

Although she recognizes the problems this hypothetical symptomatology entails, for example the risk that children usurp the victimhood of their parents, Hirsch presupposes the existence of a social group that in some way shares the painful experiences of their parents Can we remember other people’s memories?

It is as though the simple act of recreating a historical episode were enough to garner praise for a novelist. Using feminist critical strategies to connect past and present, words and images, and memory and gender, she brings the entangled strands of disparate traumatic histories into more intimate contact.

Postmemory stretches the temporal boundaries of historical events, investing them with a contemporary relevance that moves beyond the transcendence they had for the historical actors who were originally implicated.

This article critiques the ways in which the concept of postmemory has been used to defend the psychological and social significance of historical fiction. Historical novels on the Spanish Civil War more often podtmemory not neglect the psychology of the perpetrators of reprehensible acts; the characterization of evildoers often gravitates toward caricature.

The book’s chapters, two of which were written collaboratively with the historian Leo Spitzer, engage the work of postgeneration artists and writers such as Art Spiegelman, W.

Less individualized, less marked by the particularities of identity, children invite multiple projections and identifications. Postmemory does not aspire to posrmemory and gratifying conclusions but rather aims to leave audiences with the unease of discovering that history — above all the history of events of extreme violence and suffering — leaves loose ends and gaps that no account is able to tie neatly together and fill.


The sentimental treatment of the Spanish Civil War in many contemporary works has fostered a critical discourse that regards identification as the ultimate purpose of reading these works. But a historical novel, although it may cloak itself in the paraphernalia of trauma, is not necessarily hirsxh helpful medium for approaching the past nor does reading it necessarily pkstmemory you a better citizen or improve your psychological health.

We fantasize about how we would react and feel about any given occurrence. Journalism and the Social Sciences.

When postmemory is mobilized in support of a hypothetical social trauma that is passed down through the generations, the concept is in danger of resembling a overly simplistic formula for understanding literature and its relationship with the past: Harvard University Press, and hiesch articles that elucidate the autobiographical context for which Hirsch coined the term: The attachment to stereotypes absolves readers of the need to undertake a more psychologically and ethically complex process of identification, which, according to Hirsch, could hisch us to understand better human beings who committed abominable acts If postmemory is understood as an enduring social trauma and writing as an alleviating and expiatory act in service of the community, then works of art are imbued with an unquestionable social value.

Postmemory is analogous hirscy the desired and yet frustrated connection with the past encapsulated by photography. We recreate the events of the narrative in our imagination as if we were living them. For Hirsch, images of children facilitate our capacity for self-projection; such images encourage the comforting sensation of understanding a historical experience that is, in reality, incomprehensible: Hirsch warns that sentimentality serves as a defense mechanism allowing readers to attenuate their reception of difficult themes related to historical violence and to absolve themselves of poshmemory responsibility to reflect on what motivates the perpetrators of atrocities In an account of the personal motivations for her work in memory studies Hirsch grants a privileged status to her zeal as an activist more than to any trauma that postmemody might postmemoty suffered as the daughter of Jews who survived persecution in Romania during the Second World War and escaped deportation.

Account Options Sign in. Literature can serve undisclosed interests, alleviate a sense of responsibility and guilt, promote self-satisfaction and complacency. In her analyses of their fractured texts, Hirsch locates the roots of the familial and affiliative practices of postmemory in feminism and other movements for social change.

Hirsch birsch these structures as means of repairing the links with a past that have been broken by discontinuities in the passage of individual to collective memory.


More than the idea that these works communicate historical facts, Hirsch is interested in the ways in which they do so. Nazi Photographs in Post-Holocaust Art 6. In her analysis of visual art on the Holocaust, Hirsch denounces the tendency to infantilize and feminize victims and warns of the concomitant danger of depicting perpetrators with hypermasculine and depersonalized features Trauma theory urged a disregard for the criteria of reliability and accuracy, treating testimony not as a typical historical source but as an alternative, tortured system of knowledge about the past.

Marianne Hirsch – Wikipedia

She gives the example of the photograph of a boy in the Warsaw ghetto, an image that has gained an iconic status in Holocaust studies and that originated in the Stroop report, which was drawn up by the Nazi authorities to document the destruction of the ghetto. Grappling with the ethics of empathy and identification, these artists attempt to forge a creative postmemorial aesthetic that reanimates the past without appropriating it. Marianne Hirsch’s writings provide us with a varied and complex vocabulary for thinking and writing about the long intergenerational legacy of the Holocaust.

Read an excerpt from The Generation of Postmemory to view in full screen, click on icon in bottom right-hand corner: We will see that postmemory as an artistic process must be understood in terms of activism and not as the result of a psychological wound whose aftereffects are still felt by later generations. Using feminist critical strategies to connect past and present, words and images, and memory and gender, she brings the entangled strands of disparate traumatic histories into more intimate contact.

Instead of lavishing our approval indiscriminately on historical novels as though they were an unquestionable boon for society, we can begin to gauge the effects of these fictions against the intention of their authors and likewise distinguish between more and less productive attitudes toward the past.

These structures are generally aesthetic: Some of the most celebrated historical novels of the last couple of decades in Spain use similar methods in their portrayal of the victims of the civil war.

Marianne Hirsch

Objects of Return 9. Mathieu Ducournau, Higsch 3x cm, More akin to symbols than fully formed protagonists, perpetrator-characters rarely have a psychological depth that might allow readers to reflect on their motives. Literary criticism has the obligation to question certain reading tendencies.

Her most recent books are, with Leo Spitzer, Ghosts of Home: