The Destruction of the Inalienable in the Age of the Holocaust

By Rodolphe Gasché

Subjects: Philosophy, Holocaust Studies, Literary Criticism, Continental Philosophy, Jewish Studies
Series: SUNY series, Literature . . . in Theory, SUNY Press Open Access
Hardcover : 9781438471457, 160 pages, October 2018
Paperback : 9781438471464, 160 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents


Preliminaries: On Not Telling Stories

1. Entanglement in Stories
Wilhelm Schapp

2. Storytelling
Walter Benjamin

3. Surviving for Others
Hannah Arendt

Postliminaries: Storytelling and World Loss


An innovative philosophical meditation on the muteness of Holocaust survivors and the human faculty of storytelling.


In Storytelling, Rodolphe Gasché reexamines the muteness of Holocaust survivors, that is, their inability to tell their stories. This phenomenon has not been explained up to now without reducing the violence of the events to which survivors were subjected, on the one hand, and diminishing the specific harm that has been done to them as human beings, on the other. Distinguishing storytelling from testifying and providing information, Gasché asserts that the utter senselessness of the violence inflicted upon them is what inhibited survivors from making sense of their experience in the form of tellable stories. In a series of readings of major theories of storytelling by three thinkers—Wilhelm Schapp, whose work will be a welcome discovery to many English-speaking audiences, Walter Benjamin, and Hannah Arendt—Gasché systematically assesses the consequences of the loss of the storytelling faculty, considered by some an inalienable possession of the human, both for the victims' humanity and for philosophy.

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Rodolphe Gasché is SUNY Distinguished Professor and Eugenio Donato Professor of Comparative Literature at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. His many books include Deconstruction, Its Force, Its Violence: together with "Have We Done with the Empire of Judgment?," also published by SUNY Press.


"This book pursues the problem of what happens when the stories that are the object of narration become so enigmatic and troublesome that they withdraw from the realm of communicability and meaning into the space of a certain muteness. By focusing on Schapp, Benjamin, and Arendt, Gasché succeeds brilliantly in weaving together the three strands that are most vital to its subject: philosophical rigor, literary sensitivity, and historical concreteness. " — Gerhard Richter, author of Inheriting Walter Benjamin