"To Tell the Story": Cultural Trauma and Holocaust Metanarrative

Hunter, Anna Clare orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4202-920X (2019) "To Tell the Story": Cultural Trauma and Holocaust Metanarrative. Holocaust Studies, 25 (1-2). pp. 12-27. ISSN 1750-4902

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/17504902.2018.1472872


This article explores the aporia between the alleged inexplicability of the Holocaust and the wealth of narrative that has proceeded from the event in the years since 1945, proposing the existence of a generic Holocaust metanarrative that has been adopted and inscribed into Western cultural memory as the accepted framework for interpretation. Taking as a starting point the idea that culture itself has been somehow ‘ruptured’ in the wake of the Holocaust, this article explores the ways in which this rupture manifests itself, viewing the shattering impact of the Holocaust on the Western cultural imagination as macrocosmically comparable to the impact of psychic trauma on the individual survivor of the Holocaust. Just as an individual act of narration (the act of testimony) is believed to provide a cure for trauma, so a collective act of narration may hold the key to repairing the post-Holocaust cultural rupture. During the exploration of this process, it becomes apparent that cultural memory of the Holocaust is in fact informed by a metanarrative account that appears to offer the possibility of an engagement with the Holocaust, but which in fact acts as a screen between the event itself and the culture that would seek to memorialize it. Finally, this article explores the notion that the most appropriate narrative response is one that accepts the impossibility of its own position, rejecting the easy redemption offered by the assimilation of Holocaust metanarrative and instead inhabiting the dialectic between knowing and understanding that the Holocaust presents.

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