Call for Abstracts (February 29, 2012): Anthology on the FANTASTIC IN HOLOCAUST LITERATURE

full name / name of organization: 
Judith B. Kerman (Mayapple Press) and John Edgar Browning (SUNY-Buffalo)
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Call for Submissions: Anthology on the FANTASTIC IN HOLOCAUST LITERATURE


Judith B. Kerman
Publisher, Mayapple Press
Professor Emerita of English, Saginaw Valley State University

John Edgar Browning
Arthur A. Schomburg Fellow
and Ph.D. student (American Studies), State University of New York at Buffalo

"Can the Holocaust be represented with sensitivity and historical verisimilitude in an imaginative mode so often associated in the popular mind with escapism and 'irreality,'" asks Gary K. Wolfe. "If the reality of the Holocaust challenges the imagination—or transcends it, as Elie Wiesel and others have argued," Wolfe continues, "what can the fantastic imagination possibly bring to the table?" We invite abstracts for a critical anthology entitled, "The Fantastic in Holocaust Literature," to be published by McFarland & Co. in 2013. This anthology is interdisciplinary in scope, with "literature" being broadly defined, from literature and film, to animation, graphic novels, and various other mediums. Within these mediums, we are interested in the fantastic, which, "by its very nature," Wolfe aptly comments, "violates the norms of realism that have dominated not only Holocaust texts but virtually the whole body of what has been received and taught as "serious" literature for the past two centuries. Fantastic literature suggests fairy tales, myths, science fiction—the impossible or at least the improbable." Thus, we seek to generate essays that, while not necessarily in agreement or reducible to a single medium, will work in dialogue with each other, as a cohesive whole.

But why write about the Nazi Holocaust? And why read about it? Many survivors have needed to bear witness, and for many the idea of bearing witness gave meaning to their sufferings even as they occurred, helping them to survive. However, writings by non-survivors are a more complicated matter, and reading about these events is similarly complex. Questions about the nature and purpose of Holocaust texts which incorporate fantastic elements are not really separate from these broader issues, which concern the ontological as well as the moral nature of the Holocaust itself. One might ask the same question about any catastrophe, natural or man-made, which reminds us how thin the thread is which keeps us from either misery or savagery. Cambodia. Hiroshima. Kuwait City and Baghdad. Even the lives of our own homeless. Yet, to the extent that our everyday lives continue in relatively unruffled comfort, these experiences are in fact fantastic to contemplate, which is why almost every account reports refusal by most European Jews to believe the warnings they received, even as they were herded onto the trains. As Jane Yolen's novel, The Devil's Arithmetic (1988), frames it, these reports were clearly "fairy tales," madness (67). When the real is so fantastic, what literary effects will succeed in making it credible, and in helping the reader to comprehend its human meaning?

To respond meaningfully to such a challenge, one approach is made available by the techniques of the fantastic, the "condensation of images which allows it to affect its readers at many levels and in many different ways" (Kathryn Hume, Fantasy and Mimesis [1984], 196). "Any tacit agreement," Wolfe points out, "that the Holocaust is 'off-limits' to the imagination may well have the paradoxical effect of mythologizing it further, as the historical event recedes, and the surviving texts take on the status of icons." If the Holocaust is "to remain a continuing confrontation with almost unimaginable evil," Wolfe continues, "it must, as Caryn James implies, be re-imagined for succeeding generations on their own terms." This anthology will consider essays that interrogate literary texts in which the Holocaust and the fantastic are together articulated in a number of different ways, some more successful than others, in order to wrestle with these questions.

Please submit abstracts of 500 words and a short biographical statement to John Edgar Browning ( or Judith B. Kerman ( by February 29, 2012. Essays appearing in the anthology will average 3,000-8,000 words. Chicago style should be used where citation is required. Notification of acceptance will be given by March 31, 2012, accompanied by additional comments for revision where necessary. Completed chapters will be due by August 1, 2012.