Lyric Witness: Intergenerational (re)collection Of The Holocaust In Contemporary American Poetry

Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This dissertation is a cross-genre project that blends creative and scholarly writing to challenge the conventional modes through which academic argumentation can occurs. It looks at published and archived late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century poetry about the Holocaust, analyzing not only its recollection within the American context but also the underrepresentation of the extermination that took place in the Soviet territories. The poet-scholar argues that lyric witness is a necessary compositional mode and interpretive lens for grappling with the impossibilities of witnessing and remembering the Holocaust at large, as well as addressing the particularities of the Holocaust in the East. Each chapter—“Glossary,” “Sonnet,” and “Translated Archive”—is an experiment in mimesis, whereby scholarly analysis adopts some of the formal and generic elements of its literary objects. The chapters focus on contemporary poetry collections by Ilya Kaminsky and Jehanne Dubrow, as well as an archive of poetic translations from Yiddish into Russian housed in the United States Holocaust Museum. The project concludes with its own archive of contemporary poetry of lyric witness related to the Holocaust.