Topographies of suffering: encountering the Holocaust in landscape, literature and memory

Rapson, Jessica. 2012. Topographies of suffering: encountering the Holocaust in landscape, literature and memory. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

As the Holocaust passes out of living memory, this thesis re-evaluates the potential of commemorative landscapes to engender meaningful and textualised encounters with a past which, all too often, seems distant and untouchable. As the concentration camps and mass graves that shape our experiential access to this past are integrated into tourist itineraries, associated discourse is increasingly delimited by a pervasive sense of memorial fatigue which is itself compounded by the notion that the experiences of the Holocaust are beyond representation; that they deny, evade or transcend communication and comprehension.
Harnessing recent developments across memory studies, cultural geography and ecocritical literary theory, this thesis contends that memory is always in production and never produced; always a journey and never a destination. In refusing the notion of an ineffable past, I turn to the texts and topographies that structure contemporary encounters with the Holocaust and consider their potential to create an ethically grounded and reflexive past-present engagement. Topographies of Suffering explores three case studies: the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial, Weimar, Germany; the mass grave at Babi Yar, Kiev, Ukraine; and the razed village of Lidice, Czech Republic. These landscapes are revealed as evolving palimpsests; multi-layered, multi-dimensional and texturised spaces always subject to ongoing processes of mediation and remediation. I examine memory’s locatedness in landscape alongside the ways it may travel according to diverse literary and spatial de-territorializations. The thesis overall brings three disparate sites together as places in which the past can be encounterable, immersive and affective. In doing so, it looks to a future in which the others of the past can be faced, and in which the alibi of ineffability can be consigned to history

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Additional Information:

Thesis now published as monograph


Holocaust, memory, landscape, commemoration, cultural geography

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


5 June 2012

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

02 May 2013 13:03

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:38


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