The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture

The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture

Boena Shallcross
Distribution: World
Publication date: 02/21/2011
ISBN: 978-0-253-00509-0
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Honorable Mention, 2011 Kulczycki Book Prize

In stark contrast to the widespread preoccupation with the wartime looting of priceless works of art, Boena Shallcross focuses on the meaning of ordinary objects—pots, eyeglasses, shoes, clothing, kitchen utensils—tangible vestiges of a once-lived reality, which she reads here as cultural texts. Shallcross delineates the ways in which Holocaust objects are represented in Polish and Polish-Jewish texts written during or shortly after World War II. These representational strategies are distilled from the writings of Zuzanna Ginczanka, Wadysaw Szlengel, Zofia Nakowska, Czesaw Miosz, Jerzy Andrzejewski, and Tadeusz Borowski. Combining close readings of selected texts with critical interrogations of a wide range of philosophical and theoretical approaches to the nature of matter, Shallcross's study broadens the current discourse on the Holocaust by embracing humble and overlooked material objects as they were perceived by writers of that time.

Author Bio

Boena Shallcross is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago. She is author of Through the Poet's Eye: The Travels of Zagajewski, Herbert, and Brodsky and editor (with David L. Ransel) of Polish Encounters/Russian Identity (IUP, 2005).


“Brilliant and ambitious . . . approaches [the] topic from a fresh and intellectually challenging perspective. . . . Shallcross's book is surely the most sophisticated analysis of Polish Holocaust literature ever written.”
 — Madeline G. Levine, University of North Carolina

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Table of Contents

The Totalized Object: An Introduction

On Jouissance
1. A Dandy and Jewish Detritus
2. The Material Letter J
On Waste and Matter
3. Holocaust Soap and the Story of Its Production
4. The Guilty Afterlife of the Soma
On Contact
5. The Manuscript Lost in Warsaw
6. Things, Touch, and Detachment in Auschwitz

Coda: The Post-Holocaust Object
Acknowledgments and Permissions