The Holocaust and the Nonrepresentable
Literary and Photographic Transcendence
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Argues that Holocaust representation has ethical implications fundamentally linked to questions of good and evil.
Many books focus on issues of Holocaust representation, but few address why the Holocaust in particular poses such a representational problem. David Patterson draws from Emmanuel Levinas's contention that the Good cannot be represented. He argues that the assault on the Good is equally nonrepresentable and this nonrepresentable aspect of the Holocaust is its distinguishing feature. Utilizing Jewish religious thought, Patterson examines how the literary word expresses the ineffable and how the photographic image manifests the invisible. Where the Holocaust is concerned, representation is a matter not of imagination but of ethical implication, not of what it was like but of what must be done. Ultimately Patterson provides a deeper understanding of why the Holocaust itself is indefinable—not only as an evil but also as a fundamental assault on the very categories of good and evil affirmed over centuries of Jewish teaching and testimony.
David Patterson is Hillel A. Feinberg Chair in Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. His many books include Anti-Semitism and Its Metaphysical Origins.
"This book commands respect, both for the author's immense and intimate knowledge of what has become a vast body of work and for his unconditional commitment to the subject. I am in awe of what I have just read." — Dorota Glowacka, coeditor of Between Ethics and Aesthetics: Crossing the Boundaries