Good news – I’ve been awarded a British Academy grant for ‘Literary witnesses to the Holocaust: H. G. Adler, W. G. Sebald and literary transmission of Holocaust testimony’

The grant supports a preparatory research trip to the German Literary Archive and a major international workshop on the transmission of Holocaust testimony in German literature

The project commissions international experts on Holocaust literature to write about the relationship between the almost forgotten Holocaust survivor and writer H. G. Adler (b. 1910), and the celebrated writer W. G. Sebald (b. 1944), as a case study of a late 20th-century Holocaust writer re-discovering and re-canonising an earlier witness. In 2001, W. G. Sebald drew on Adler’s Theresienstadt: Antlitz einer Zwangsgemeinschaft (1955) in his novel Austerlitz. This revived interest in the poetry and novels of Adler, which, although largely ignored on their initial publications between the 1950s and 1989, are now being translated into English and attract growing critical attention. This project uses this as a case study of the workings of the ‘cultural field’ (Bourdieu) in relation to the circulation and reception of Holocaust writing. It forms an initial investigation into the wider relationships between the first literary witnesses to the Holocaust and subsequent discourse about testimony to historical traumas. It questions how cultural legitimacy has been granted to certain ‘first voices’ of the Holocaust while being denied to others. The main output will be a volume discussing the wider significance of the Adler-Sebald literary relationship.

At the workshop, participants will present their draft chapters to ensure coherence, and a dynamic interaction of chapters. A final research trip to Adler’s and Sebald’s archives in Marbach by the editor will follow, to ensure a rigorous introduction to the volume. The volume’s detailed examination of the literary relationship between Adler and Sebald will also reflect on the wider literary-political implications of the remediation of literary Holocaust testimony and of the cultural field of Holocaust representation

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