GSA Seminar “Affect and Cognition in Holocaust Culture”
Scholars have long debated the ways in which affect and cognition interact in representations of the Holocaust. The shock effect of the early atrocity films, the cathartic relief provided by melodramas, and the “empathic unsettlement” (LaCapra) provoked by complex literary fiction all contribute in different ways to the understanding (and misunderstanding) of the Nazi genocide. This seminar explores an array of affective and cognitive responses to Holocaust representations as well as recent methodological tools available to analyze and evaluate such responses.
The seminar seeks to encourage a broad theoretical reflection at this historical moment, which is marked by generational shifts—the passing of the eyewitnesses—as well as the digitization, globalization, and politicization of Holocaust memory. These developments raise new questions about the possibility of trans-generational and transcultural empathy as well as the value and dangers of pedagogies that encourage processes of identification with various participants groups (victims, survivors, perpetrators at various levels, other complicit parties, bystanders, rescuers, resisters, etc.). They also allow us to address ethical dilemmas that have previously been avoided, for example, about empathetic identification with Holocaust perpetrators, a phenomenon that has increasingly become important as a result of a wave of recent literary texts that feature the perpetrator’s perspective. Concurrent with these critical shifts in Holocaust memory and representation are new theories and methods, including some that have emerged out of the “second cognitive revolution" (Harré) and that focus on the affective and cognitive dimensions of narrative.
We are interested in attracting scholars working on the operations of emotion and cognition in Holocaust representations broadly understood, including art, literature, historiography, museums/monuments, journalistic and non-fictional discourse, and film and other media. We will consider a spectrum of theoretical approaches ranging from psychoanalysis and trauma theory to cognitive studies and narratology, and hope participants will consider the topic from a variety of perspectives, including historiographical, ethical, social, and cultural questions.
The seminar will meet three times over the three days of the conference and will include a syllabus of theoretical and methodological readings along with pre-circulated position papers (ca. 1,000 words each) from all participants. The three conveners will each lead the discussion of one session of the seminar; they will also contribute position papers (each of which will be discussed during a session chaired by someone other than the author of the paper).
The conveners of this seminar are Katja Garloff (Reed College), Erin McGlothlin (Washington University in St. Louis) and Agnes Mueller (University of South Carolina).
For information on applying to the seminar, please visit the GSA website: https://www.thegsa.org/news/index.html#submissions2017. Applications are due by January 26, 2017.
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