Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The forgiveness to come: Dreams and aporias
by Banki, Peter, Ph.D., New York University, 2009, 239; 3380302
Abstract (Summary)

The dissertation, The Forgiveness to Come: Dreams and Aporias, addresses the difficulties posed by the Holocaust for a thinking of forgiveness inherited from the Abrahamic (i.e. monotheistic) tradition. As a way to approach these difficulties, I explore the often radically divergent positions in the debate on forgiveness in the literature of Holocaust survivors. Forgiveness is sometimes understood as a means of self-empowerment (Eva Mozes Kor); part of the inevitable process of historical normalization and amnesia (Jean Améry); or otherwise as an unresolved question, that will survive all trials and remain contemporary when the crimes of the Nazis belong to the distant past (Simon Wiesenthal).

Why does the value of forgiveness impose itself in the literature of the Holocaust? What does this imposition reveal about Western culture, dominated by Judeo-Christian traditions? Recent studies (Lang 2000, Langer 1999, Weigel 2002) have argued for the necessity, in the light of the Holocaust, to rethink what forgiveness is, the conditions under which it supposedly takes place, and in particular its relation to justice. What the philosopher Vladimir Jankélévitch has termed the inexpiable character of Nazi crimes need not necessarily imply what he called "the death of forgiveness." However, the inexpiable compels us to re-think the habitual understanding of forgiveness as a human possibility or power, moreover, one that must be the correlate of punishment (Arendt 1958).

On the basis of Jacques Derrida's recent work on the subject, I undertake close readings of Simon Wiesenthal's Die Sonnenblume (1969), Jean Améry's Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne (1966), Vladimir Jankélévitch's Le Pardon (1967) and Robert Antelme's L'espèce humaine (1947). In addition, I analyse the documentary film Forgiving Doctor Mengele (2006) on Eva Mozes Kor. Each of these works bears witness to "aporias", or unsolvable impasses, of forgiveness, justice and responsibility in relation to the Holocaust. Might forgiveness be something other than what until now has been thought or recognized under this name? Can one imagine a forgiveness without power, that would be unconditional but without sovereignty?

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ronell, Avital
Commitee: Baer, Ulrich, Fleming, Paul, Sanders, Mark, Siegel, Elke
School: New York University
Department: German
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Comparative literature, Germanic literature, Film studies
Keywords: Amery, Jean, Antelme, Robert, Aporia, Derrida, Jacques, Forgiveness, Holocaust, Jankelevitch, Vladimir, Kor, Eva Mozes, Wiesenthal, Simon
Publication Number: 3380302
ISBN: 9781109507546
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