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Art and Transgression: The Holocaust in the Literary Imagination

The Italian historian Benedetto Croce famously said that, “All history is contemporary history ” - a sentiment that is axiomatic not just for the academic study of history, but for all literary and artistic works that refer to events, personages and ideas of the past. 

This two-unit Honors course traces how art mediates our encounters with history by examining the role of art in shaping our understanding of the Holocaust.  Specifically the course examines art's complicity in utilizing the Holocaust for national and political interests and art's ability to provide a space that affords us to behold a realm beyond reason.

In this course we will engage with literature, art, photography, memorials and film.   The course draws from a wide array of works including those by cultural critics, philosophers and fiction writers and filmmakers such as Jurek Becker, Steven Spielberg, Art Spiegelman, Roberto Benigni, Dominick LaCapra and  Janet Jacobs among others.

NOTE: As we will be using only on-line resources for the course, no textbooks are required.  However, you will need to be able to stream movies, and I highly recommend you establish an account with Netflix for the duration of the course. 

Course Objectives

  • stimulate curiosity about the interrelation between art and history.
  • broaden perspectives on the diversity and dilemmas of human experience and knowledge.
  • apply critical approaches to the analysis of various modes of cultural production in relation to the representation of historical trauma.
  • analyze cultural production as both instruments of social control and ideological change.
  • develop the habit of learning and responding to new ideas and challenges.
  • think through moral and ethical problems and to examine one's own assumptions.
  • improve both oral and written communication, especially through critical reading and analysis.


Honors Institute
Metal Sculpture

Questions? Contact Me!

Dr. Mona Rawal, Humanities Department Chair