Date of Award

Spring 2009

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Douglas Lanier


Examining post-1970 representations of the Holocaust and Nazism along with critical responses to these representations, the dissertation demonstrates how a use of the term "fascination" has shaped contemporary understandings of how the Holocaust should and should not be represented and remembered. My argument is that despite its pervasive and influential usage in the discourse of Holocaust representation, no critical attention has been given to what the term means. In as much as the term's usage draws the historical and ethical boundaries across which representations of the Holocaust cannot pass, this dearth of critical attention given to the term means that these boundaries are not clearly defined.

This dissertation gives definition and context to the use of the term "fascination" in three representative thinkers from the post-Holocaust epoch: Susan Sontag in the 1970s; Saul Friedlander in the 1980s; and Dominick LaCapra in the 1990s and 2000s. By focusing on their use of "fascination," I trace the historical and aesthetic development of representations of the Holocaust and the critical discourses that develop around them. I contend that, contra the understanding of "fascination" demonstrated by Sontag, Friedlander, and LaCapra, the term may in fact designate ethically responsible modes of engagement with the art and literature of the Holocaust. My assessment of "fascination" in the Holocaust Imaginary thus provides definitional contours to an oft-used but little understood term and also points toward possible new understandings of how the catastrophic past is to be given narrative representation.