THE RETURN OF THE CHILD EXILE: RE-ENACTMENT OF CHILDHOOD TRAUMA IN JEWISH LIFE-WRITING AND DOCUMENTARY FILM
“The Return of the Child Exile: Re-enactment of Childhood Trauma in Jewish Life-Writing and Documentary Film” is a study of the literary responses of writers who were Jewish children in hiding and exile during World War II and of documentary films on the topic of refugee children and children in exile. The goal of this dissertation is to investigate the relationships between trauma, memory, fantasy and narrative in a close reading/viewing of different forms of Jewish life-writing and documentary film by means of a scientifically informed approach to childhood trauma. Chapter 1 discusses the reception of Binjamin Wilkomirski’s Fragments (1994), which was hailed as a paradigmatic traumatic narrative written by a child survivor before it was discovered to be a fictional text based on the author’s invented Jewish life-story. In this chapter, I also review established adaptations of trauma in literature, as introduced most prominently into the humanities by Shoshana Felman, Dori Laub and Cathy Caruth, and subsequently propose a more clinicial view of trauma informed by childhood trauma research and cognitive psychology. My methodological approach thus links recent scholarship on Holocaust literature with contemporary trauma theory. Subsequently, Fragments serves as a point of departure to discuss the links between traumatic memory, fantasy and narrative in Georges-Arthur Goldschmidt’s pseudo-autobiographical texts Der Spiegeltag, Ein Garten in Deutschland, Die Absonderung, Der unterbrochene Wald, and Die Aussetzung, as well as his autobiography Über die Flüsse (Chapter 2), Stefanie Zweig’s two autobiographical novels Nirgendwo in Afrika and Irgendwo in Deutschland (Chapter 3), and Lore Segal’s memoir turned novel Other People’s Houses (Chapter 4). Following Lenore Terr’s and other childhood trauma specialists’ insights, I locate the four most common characteristics found in traumatized children in Goldschmidt’s, Zweig’s and Segal’s texts. These characteristics are: strongly visualized or otherwise repeatedly perceived memories, repetitive behaviors, trauma-specific fears, and changed attitudes about people, aspects of life, and the future. Finally, in chapter 5, I show how childhood trauma and child exiles have been depicted in documentary films such as Into the Arms of Strangers (2000), My Knees Were Jumping (1995), and Vielleicht habe ich Glück gehabt (2003).
School:University of Cincinnati
School Location:USA - Ohio
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:life writing childhood trauma jewish children in exile refugee holocaust literature binjamin wilkomirski georges arthur goldschmidt stefanie zweig lore segal documentary film
Date of Publication:01/01/2007