The Limits of Representation: The Holocaust in Literature and Film

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 18 December 2020
05 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module considers the enduring significance of the events known as the Holocaust (or Shoah) as they enter representation and continue to shape our present responses to various forms of racism and violence against the Other. It explores how the Holocaust has been represented, appropriated and reconfigured by writers, poets and filmmakers over the past seven decades.

We will examine the connections between history, trauma, and representation through an analysis of Holocaust testimonies, literature, film and visual media. How do novelists, poets, filmmakers and artists depict events that shatter traditional forms of comprehension and representation? How do imagination, memory and history coalesce in works of art? What is the relationship between aesthetics and ethics, and what are the limits of representation?

The module looks at numerous examples of Holocaust literature and film, from short story and autobiographical novel, through lyric poetry, drama and graphic novel, to documentary and recent Academy Award-winning productions. We will discuss the issues of testimony and witnessing, the aestheticization and commercialization of trauma and suffering, and the moral, philosophical and cultural legacy of the Holocaust.

Module aims

This module aims to foster students’ critical thinking by inviting them to consider how the Holocaust as the major event of Western modernity has been represented and appropriated by artists, writers and filmmakers since the 1950s to the present day. Through a close consideration of major literary and cinematic productions, students will reflect on the moral, philosophical and cultural legacy of the Holocaust. They will become familiar with key theoretical concepts relating to testimony, witnessing, representation and cultural memory, as well as the critical debates on the limits of representation.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. display knowledge and understanding of an interdisciplinary selection of literary texts, films and visual art on the Holocaust
2. demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the development of ways of representing and conceptualizing the Holocaust from the post-war to the present day
3. display understanding of key concepts such as trauma, testimony, cultural memory and the limits of representation
4. demonstrate knowledge and skills required to engage in intellectual debates on representation and memorialization of the Holocaust
5. participate in teamwork and demonstrate team-based communication skills, including presentation and discussion skills

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

For 2020-21, we will offer a mixture of tailored online, digital, and campus-based teaching where it may be possible and as appropriate, along with personalised one-to-one consultation with academic staff.


  • Bertolt Brecht. (2019) The Collected Poems of Bertolt Brecht, New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.
  • Paul Celan. (2001) Selected Poems and Prose of Paul Celan, New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
  • Waxman, Zoë. (1992-) 'Unheard Testimony, Untold Stories: the representation of women's Holocaust experiences', in Women's History Review. vol. 12 (4) , pp.661-677
  • Radnóti, Miklós; George, Emery Edward. (c1980) The complete poetry, Ann Arbor, Mich: Ardis.
  • Borowski, Tadeusz; Vedder, Barbara. (1992) This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, London: Penguin Books Ltd.
  • Sachs, Nelly. (1968) Selected poems : including the verse play 'Eli', London: Cape.
  • Spiegelman, Art. (2003) Maus: a survivor's tale, London: Penguin.
  • Imre Kertesz; Tim Wilkinson. (2017) Fateless, London: Vintage Classics.
  • Pawlikowski, Pawel. (2013) Ida.
  • Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath | Poetry Foundation,
  • Tadeusz Slobodzianek. (2009) Our Class, London: Oberon Books.
  • Miller, J. Hillis. (©2011) 'Imre Kertész's Fatelessness: Fiction as Testimony', in The conflagration of community: fiction before and after Auschwitz, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Levertov, Denise. (1961) The Jacob's ladder, [New York]: The Author. vol. 112
  • Hanna Krall. (2013) Chasing the King of Hearts, London: Peirene Press.
  • Roberto Benigni. (1997; 2001) Life Is Beautiful, London: Buena Vista Home Entertainment.
  • Elie Wiesel [et al.]. (1977) Dimensions of the Holocaust: lectures at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL: The University.
  • Nemes, Laszlo. (2015) Son of Saul.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Presentation    25% 
Coursework   Essay (3,000 words)     50% 
Practical   Online Portfolio (tasks tbc but including weekly contribution to Moodle)     25% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Joanna Rzepa, email:
Dr Joanna Rzepa
LiFTS General Office - Tel. 01206 87 2626



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 29 hours, 20 (69%) hours available to students:
9 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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