Figurations of Suffering in Concentration Camp Testimony

O'Donoghue, Samuel (2021) Figurations of Suffering in Concentration Camp Testimony. Comparative Literature Studies, 58 (4). pp. 807-835. ISSN 0010-4132

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This article offers a close reading of the figurative language used to represent suffering in literary testimonies of the Nazi concentration camps. It begins with an overview of the debate over the legitimacy of figurative language in representations of the Holocaust and considers the arguments against metaphor by scholars in the field of pain research and Holocaust studies. Bringing into dialogue the disciplines of pain studies and Holocaust studies, the article advances the claim that figurative language is an effective means of expressing suffering and that an analysis of this language is valuable for understanding the experiences of the victims of Nazism. The article subsequently presents a comparative analysis of Se questo è un uomo (1947) by Primo Levi, Le grand voyage (1963) by Jorge Semprún, and K.L. Reich (1963) by Joaquim Amat-Piniella. It identifies two patterns in the representation of suffering by these author-survivors: first, the use of zoomorphic metaphors to describe bodily pain and, second, the depiction of anthropomorphized landscapes to portray psychological anguish.

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Journal Article
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Comparative Literature Studies
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Deposited On:
10 Feb 2021 11:38
Last Modified:
16 Sep 2023 02:16