The Transnational Circulation of Holocaust Narratives

This course was led by Professor Stuart Taberner and Dr. Helen Finch at the University of Copenhagen in October 2013, sponsored by the Faculty of Arts at the University of Leeds.


Course description

The increasing interaction and mutual exchange across the borders of national cultures and languages today means that contemporary literature to an ever lesser extent reflects the context of one single nation and culture, but operates in an open and transnational field. Transnational literature reflects the permanent flow, transfer or circulation of people, cultures and ideas. These border crossings also imply tensions and ambivalences resulting in constant negotiations, reinventions and remediations of national traditions in new literary forms.  As the term suggests, transnational literature usually is located in the era of the nation state. However, similar phenomena also took and take place on pre- and postnational conditions. Historical as well as contemporary examples of transnational literature will therefore be included in this course, which also contains a section on Holocaust literature.

The workshop will examine the theoretical and methodological implications of the concept of transnational literature and discuss its aesthetic forms based on case studies from European contemporary and historical literature. Furthermore it is one of the aims of this course to discuss the precise definition of transnationalism and how it is different from concepts such as globalization, internationalization, and cosmopolitanization.

Holocaust literature is one of those genres which cannot be comprehended in the terms of a national literature.  As the entire publication of Europe was split of into Jews and non-Jews by Nazi-Germany, the experience of persecution, exile and extension in itself was a transnational one. Furthermore, many authors, who were forced into exile, started to write in the language of their host countries. Others continued to write in German after the war while taking permanent residence outside of Germany. Migrations back to or out of Germany with shift of writing language as consequence continued in the following generations, further complicating the field and undermining the idea of a national Holocaust literature.



25 October 2013

1st Section:

15.00–15.15: Short introduction by Anna Sandberg: transnational literatures. Historical and contemporary perspectives.

15.15-16.00: Professor Stuart Taberner: Transnationalism and contemporary German literature


2nd section:

16.30-45: Short introduction by Jessica Ortner: Holocaust as a transnational phenomenon

16.45- 17.30: Dr. Helen Finch: ‘Canon and canon-formation in German-language Holocaust literature: the politics of testimony and transnational transmission’

17.30-18.30: Project presentations


26 October

9.00-10.30: Project presentations

10.30-11.00: Final discussion


University of Leeds postgraduate presentations

  • Hannah Copley: ‘”…any human place”: transnational landscapes in the poetry of Geoffrey Hill’
  • Lizzie Oliver: ‘The worlds in the words: Holocaust literature and Far Eastern Prisoner of War discourse’
  • Samantha Reive: ‘Beyond the Atlantic Triangle: Black & European Transnationalisms in Caryl Phillips’s In the Falling Snow’
  • Elizabeth Ward: ‘A borderless ghetto? Understanding space and place in Jurek Becker’s Jakob der Lügner


University of Copenhagne/Lund postgraduate presentations

  • Anita Pluwak, ‘Transcultural European Circulations: contemporary, historical and Holocaust literature’
  • Joseph Ballan, ‘Meridians: Towards the Question of Geography in the Poetry of Nelly Sachs’