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Enduring identities : Jewish identity in the Holocaust literature of Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel

Nesfield, Victoria Lee (2011) Enduring identities : Jewish identity in the Holocaust literature of Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

'Enduring Identities' is a comparison of the Holocaust literature of Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel, debating the cultural divide between Jewish communities in the East and West of Europe. Beginning with a historical and theological context, the thesis explores the establishment of the Jewish people, their movement into the Diaspora, the changes of Modernity and the ensuing dichotomy between East and West which created divided Jewish identities. There follows an identification and analysis of a literary lineage between the East and West of Europe, identifying a divide in cultural trajectories and situating Levi and Wiesel as Jewish authors within Western and Eastern literary paradigms. Identifying four conceptual frameworks through which to compare the written works of Levi and Wiesel, the study takes as its central focus the Holocaust and discusses the representation of Jewish identity through the literary lineage of modern Jewish authorship and the East / West divide. The theme of 'otherness' is a central point of contention, identified through the work of Zygmunt Bauman on Modernity and Edward Said's work on theories of Orientalism, discussing the construction of 'the Jew' and Jewish identity as 'other' in Europe. Finally 'Enduring Identities' uses the Holocaust literature of Levi and Wiesel to discuss the identification of 'the Jew' from 'within and without', how Jewish communities perceived each other as different, across the East and West of Europe, from 'within' and how Jewish communities were perceived by the Gentile majority, from 'without'. The study identifies how the divided Jewish communities of Europe had their identities deconstructed by the Nazi anti-Semitic persecution to the point of convergence in the concentration and extermination camps. The primary question the study aims to identify is whether the Holocaust united divided Jewish identity, or whether the cultural separations between the Eastern and Western Jewish identities endured. The study concludes that although the Jewish identities of Levi and Wiesel necessarily changed through the Holocaust, as a metaphor for an East / West dichotomy, the literature of Levi and Wiesel represents the continuing divide between European Jewry.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > University of York St. John
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.540766
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 22 Aug 2018 16:04
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2018 16:04
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21116

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