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A laughing matter?: the role of humor in Holocaust narrative

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Approaches to Holocaust representation often take their cues from both academic and public discourse. General opinion demands serious engagement that depicts the full range of the brutality and inhumanity of

Approaches to Holocaust representation often take their cues from both academic and public discourse. General opinion demands serious engagement that depicts the full range of the brutality and inhumanity of the genocide and the victimization of targeted groups perpetrated by the National Socialists. Such a treatment is considered necessary to adequately represent the Holocaust for generations to come. The analysis of four texts will show that humor is not only appropriate but is also an important addition to Holocaust discourse. This study argues that humor plays an important role as a stylistic tool for discussing the Holocaust as well as for its remembrance and representation. Jurek Becker's novel Jakob der Lügner and Ruth Klüger's autobiography Weiter Leben: Eine Jugend are witness-texts by Jewish authors. Humor in these two works helps the authors engage and work their experiences. Klüger's autobiography also utilizes humor to critically engage in the discussion of Holocaust representation. This study also analyzes two non-witness Jewish texts: the stage play Mein Kampf by George Tabori and the feature film Mein Führer, die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler by Dani Levy. These two works utilize overt humor to challenge established Holocaust representations. Drawing on ideas from Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Julia Kristeva, Giorgio Agamben, the core argument of this study demonstrates humor performs two main functions in the Holocaust literature and film chosen for this investigation. First, it restores a potential loss of dignity and helps victims endure the incomprehensible. Second, it challenges the prevailing truth and the established order.

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Date Created
  • 2013

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Klassiker des (Kinder)-Grusels schöpfen neue Lebenskraft: eine mundartliche Renaissance

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ABSTRACT (English)

Heinrich Hoffmann`s renowned Struwwelpeter and the famous Grimm brothers' fairy tales have been the subject of exhaustive pedagogical and psychological scrutiny. By means of shocking and fascinating literary elements

ABSTRACT (English)

Heinrich Hoffmann`s renowned Struwwelpeter and the famous Grimm brothers' fairy tales have been the subject of exhaustive pedagogical and psychological scrutiny. By means of shocking and fascinating literary elements Struwwelpeter's revolutionary didactic horror-comedy as well as the instructive horror-fantasy inherent in fairy tales are able to cast an enchanting, enlightening spell on their audience. However, both Hoffmann's and the Grimm's adventurous stories have suffered harsh criticism particularly owing to their often gruesome, macabre and unrealistic subject matter. Notwithstanding the barrage of denunciating objections, the remarkable longevity of Fidgety Philip, Little Red Riding Hood and Co appears to know no bounds, as their ingenious formula for success comprising captivatingly shocking, spine-tingling elements of both entertaining and educational value continues to inspire contemporary adaptations. Several German dialects have also discovered and devoted themselves to the magical world of Hoffmann's chaotic rascals and the Grimm's fascinating fairy tale characters in furtherance of enlivening them with the identity, culture and local flavor of their respective region.

The current study aims to demonstrate the extent to which dialectal adaptations of the aforesaid tales succeed in not only revitalizing the original narratives including their pedagogical and psychodynamic quintessence but also in capturing the readers' hearts by virtue of their intimate parlance/phraseology. This particular philological approach illustrates the symbiotic interaction between regional German dialects and well-known (children's) Horror-stories.

ABSTRACT (German)

Bisher waren sowohl der renommierte Struwwelpeter Heinrich Hoffmanns als auch die berühmten Märchen der Brüder Grimm Objekte erschöpfender pädagogischer und psychologischer Betrachtungen. Die revolutionäre didaktische Gruselkomik der struwwelpetrigen Abenteuer sowie die lehrhafte Gruselphantastik der Märchen vermögen vermittels ihrer schockierenden und zugleich faszinierenden Elemente Menschen jeden Alters in ihren verzaubernden, lebenserhellenden Bann zu ziehen. Allerdings mussten die hoffmannschen und grimmschen Geschichten insbesondere auf Grund grausamer, wirklichkeitsfremder Inhalte auch als Zielscheibe heftigster Kritik fungieren. Nichtsdestotrotz scheint der steilen Karriere von Zappelphilipp, Rotkäppchen und Co keine Grenzen gesetzt, denn ihre raffinierte Erfolgsformel bestehend aus unterhaltsam-belehrenden Schock- und Zaubermotiven inspiriert stets neue Adaptionen. So haben auch die deutschsprachigen Mundarten längst das skurille sowie zauberhafte Reich der chaotischen Lausbuben und Märchencharaktere für sich entdeckt, um diese mit der jeweils eigenen regionalkolorierten Identität und Kultur zu beseelen.

Im Rahmen dieser Arbeit gilt es nun zu demonstrieren, inwiefern es den dialektalen Petriaden und Märchenversionen gelingt, nicht nur die Erzählungen samt ihrer pädagogisch sowie psychodynamisch wertvollen Kerngehalte zu neuem Leben zu erwecken, sondern sich darüber hinaus in anheimelnder Weise die Herzen der Leserschaft zu erobern. Diese einzigartige philologische Perspektive beleuchtet die Erfolg versprechende Wechselwirkung zwischen den ortsspezifischen Sprachgeflechten und den (Kinder)-Gruselklassikern.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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And the "victims" had the last laugh: an analysis of Jewish dark and gallows humor in Nazi Germany

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In the time of Nazi Germany the systematic targeting of Jews for persecution and extermination was rampant. Although this was a dark time for the Jewish people in Europe, they

In the time of Nazi Germany the systematic targeting of Jews for persecution and extermination was rampant. Although this was a dark time for the Jewish people in Europe, they did not simply stand idly by and let this happen to them. The Jewish people found a way to make a mockery of the situation that they wee in, as well as a way to poke fun at the people who persecuted them. The Jews used dark humor to mock the situations that they found themselves in. The interesting point here, though, is that they did not use all the aspects of dark humor that exist. The Jews used situational humor, critical humor, and gallows humor-humor about death-according to the incongruity theory of humor, to make a mockery of the plight that they were in. They did not use all of the different aspects of dark humor, but only the parts that would merge with their need to mock their situation, in order to be able to deal with the reality of what was happening in their lives. For the analysis in this thesis, I researched various collections of Jewish humor in Nazi Germany. I analyzed the jokes in relation to the different humor theories, and gave my conclusion on why these jokes were effective. Based on the evidence, I have come to several conclusions. The Jews that made these jokes only used the aspects of dark humor that would fit in with the atmosphere that they were trying to create. They would not use sexual jokes of any kind because of this. They used jokes that could be used as a shield, to comfort not only themselves but also their compatriots given their situation. The use of humor was a coping measure and a sign of defiance, that helped some of the victims of the Holocaust survive the attempted extermination of the Jews. Given the opportunity, I would widen my focus on this topic to include collective memory, as well, however the scope of such a project would be more fitting for a doctoral paper.

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Date Created
  • 2011