Writing as Resistance: Four Women Confronting the Holocaust: Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Anne Frank, and Etty Hillesum

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Overview

In this moving account of the life, work, and ethics of four Jewish women intellectuals in the world of the Holocaust, Rachel Feldhay Brenner explores the ways in which these women sought to maintain their faith in humanity while aware of intensifying destruction. She argues that through their written responses of autobiographical self-assertion Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Anne Frank, and Etty Hillesum resisted the Nazi terror in ways that defy its horrifying dehumanization. Personal identity crises engendered the intellectual-spiritual acts of autobiographical self-searching for each of these women. About to become a nun in 1933, Edith Stein embarked on her autobiography as a daughter of a Jewish family. Fleeing France and deportation in 1942, Simone Weil examined her inner struggle with faith and the Church in her "Spiritual Autobiography." Hiding for more than two years in the attic, Anne Frank poignantly confided in her diary about her efforts to become a better person. Having volunteered as a social worker in Westerbork, Etty Hillesum searched her soul for love in the reality of terror. In each case, autobiographical writing becomes an act of defiance that asserts humanity in a dehumanized/dehumanizing world. By focusing on the four women's accomplishments as intellectuals, writers, and thinkers, Brenner's account liberates them from other posthumous treatments that depict them as symbols of altruism, sanctity, and victimization. Her approach also elucidates the particular predicament of Western Jewish intellectuals who trusted the ideals of the Enlightenment and believed in human fellowship. While suffering the terror of physical annihilation decreed by the Final Solution, these women had to contend with their exclusion from the world that they considered theirs. On yet another level, this study of four extraordinary life stories contributes to a deeper understanding of the postwar development of ethical, theological, and feminist thought. In showing concer
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271022857
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Rachel Feldhay Brenner is Associate Professor of Modern Hebrew Literature at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is the author of Assimilation and Assertion: The Response to the Holocaust in Mordecai Richler's Writing and A. M. Klein, The Father of Canadian Jewish Literature: Essays in the Poetics of Humanistic Passion.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Meanings of Resistance 3
Pt. 1 Resistance and Humanistic Ethics
1 The Dis/Continued Dialogue with the Enlightenment 15
2 The Ongoing Edification of the Self 21
3 The Transcending Consciousness of the Other 31
Pt. 2 Resistance and Religious Identification
4 Between Ecumenism and Anti-Judaism 53
5 Stein and Weil: Diverging Responses to Jewish and Christian Traditions 59
6 Stein and Weil: Between Self-Affirmation and Self-Renunciation 75
7 Frank and Hillesum: Identity and the Search for God 96
Pt. 3 Autobiographical Acts of Resistance
8 Where Art and Self Meet 119
9 Stein and Weil: Displaced Autobiographical Selves 123
10 Frank and Hillesum: The Diarists as Growing Artists 130
Pt. 4 Resistance and Womanhood
11 Gender Consciousness in the Rule of Terror 151
12 Stein and Weil: Women's Nature and Destiny 154
13 Toward Intellectual and Emotional Maturity 167
Conclusion: Legacies of Resistance 174
Notes 185
Bibliography 201
Index 208
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