Novels of the Holocaust: Fundamental Pedagogical Issues

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Richard Schumaker Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 


The aim of this roundtable is to present possible guidelines and book selections for a hypothetical undergraduate course in “Novels of the Holocaust.” The panel will be resolutely international and open to books originally published in any language. As this roundtable is sponsored by NeMLA’s comparative literature director, participants are not obliged to use or refer to English translations if they wish to use original texts. The course that might be called the “target course” may be for any undergraduate level and for any country.

While this is roundtable is meant to follow the interests of its participants and not impose any institutional rigidities, seven particular themes or questions seem especially important.

1. To what extent is the idea of a course on the novels of the Holocaust ethically viable? Is it even possible to represent the Holocaust meaningfully? Why not? If it is possible, how would this justification be articulated?

2. Ideally, what are the precise objectives of a course like this? Do they refer to the literature? The students? Both?

3. How do we account for literary levels in novels of the Holocaust? Are there criteria for “high” and “low” novels of the Holocaust?

4. Can one say that there is a canon of Holocaust novels? If so, what are the criteria?

5. Do Holocaust novels in one language have specific linguistic, cultural, and literary characteristics different from those in other countries and cultures.

6. Are there significant novels of the Holocaust that are largely unknown by “le grand public?”

7. Is it possible to establish guidelines and practices for teaching the Holocaust as a f2f, online, or hybrid course?

While participants may, of course, freely refer to films of the Holocaust, our focus will be on the novel.

Submissions of 350-400 words, please.

This is a director’s sponsored comparative literature panel. Volunteers to serve as chair are welcomed.