Research team

Institute of Jewish Studies

Expertise

Arvi Sepp is a specialist in the culture-historical analysis of the connections between literature and ideology in religious and linguistic minorities as well as in artistic subcultures. His work focuses on 20th-century German-Jewish literature in the context of the Holocaust and the reception of Jewish thought. Research areas also include political and ethical commitment, transnationalism and multilingualism in literary texts written in the context of migration and exile.

Urban Experience in the Third Reich: A Topopoetic Analysis of German-Jewish Autobiographical Literature from Breslau 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

This research project aims to contribute to the understanding of the representation of the German-Jewish urban experience in life writing from Breslau during the Third Reich, on a contextual and a textual level. The relation between 'Aryan' and 'Jew' in the Third Reich was structured in, and through, space. Breslau's urban space is therefore neither simply a negative constraint nor merely a passive surface onto which Nazi anti-Semitism in the city is mapped. As will be shown in this research project, spatial form and spatial strategy were an active element of segregation and destruction. Urban space should therefore be regarded as more than a social given, it is, within the context of persecution, a narrative construction in Jewish writing that incites to imaginative figurations of alternative, resisting spaces. Thus, one needs to take into account that mental processes are constructed through space, which is articulated in written and spoken language. Accordingly, informed by insights from geocriticism (Westphal), the literary analysis of the representation of German-Jewish heterotopias will shed new light on the experience of racialized segregation and the textual specificity of Jewish life writing during National Socialism.

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Research team(s)

'Des deutschen Dichters Sendung': The collective symbolism and rhetorical structure of political religion in the poetry of the Junge Mannschaft. (1933-1938). 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2019

Abstract

This research project aims to contribute to the understanding of the rhetorical structure and collective symbolism of political-religious discourse in the Nazi-biased poetry of the literary group Junge Mannschaft (1933-1945). This study combines a historical and a context-based approach to National Socialist poetry with a textanalytical one, through Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

German-Jewish Urban Experience in the Third Reich: Heterotopia in Breslau Life Writing. 01/10/2016 - 30/09/2017

Abstract

This research project aims to contribute to the understanding of the representation of the German-Jewish urban experience in life writing from Breslau during the Third Reich, on a contextual and a textual level. The relation between 'Aryan' and 'Jew' in the Third Reich was structured in, and through, space. Breslau's urban space is therefore neither simply a negative constraint nor merely a passive surface onto which Nazi anti-Semitism in the city is mapped. As will be shown in this research project, spatial form and spatial strategy were an active element of segregation and destruction. Urban space should therefore be regarded as more than a social given:. In the context of the Holocaust, one needs to take into account that mental processes are constructed through space, which is articulated in written and spoken language. Accordingly, the analysis of the representation of German-Jewish heterotopia will shed new light on the experience of racialized segregation and the textual specificity of Jewish life writing during National Socialism.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Subsidy of the publication (monography) in German "Topographie des Alltags. Eine kulturwissenschaftliche Lektüre von Victor Klemperers Tagebüchern 1933-1945" published by Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Paderborn, Germany. 01/02/2016 - 31/12/2016

Abstract

When the diaries of Victor Klemperer, German-Jewish Professor of Romance Philology at the Technical University of Dresden, were first published by Walter Nowojski in 1995 the response was unusually lively at both the national and international level. The enormous interest provoked by the diaries of the German-Jewish professor of Romance literature who survived the Holocaust in Dresden thanks to intermarriage was doubtlessly due to the almost unanimous praise in press reviews and scholarly articles, which described the work as a unique historical document or as one of the most important literary eye-witness accounts of the Nazi-period. Yet, Klemperer might prove to be still more influential. I want to suggest that the Klemperer diaries are quite revealing about Jewish identity in Germany and in Europe in general. In contrast to Goldhagen's one-sided polemic, Klemperer allows in his Third Reich diaries for conflicting readings of popular support for Hitler, the extent of anti-Semitism, and of knowledge of the Holocaust. Hence, it is open to interpretation and thus to multiple forms of political and historical instrumentalization. The Klemperer diaries have indeed been used to shore up manifold—and sometimes contradictory—arguments. Who were ordinary Germans, and what was their relationship to Hitler? How did they interact with Nazi anti-Semitism? How much did they know about the genocide, and when? On these and other questions, Klemperer's day-to-day records create ambiguities, time and again. Multi-faceted and complex, the diaries do not often allow for a single interpretation on the matters they concern most. Since we have so few authentic sources from the period, Klemperer's diaries provide an insight into the everyday life in the Third Reich. Above all, however, Klemperer offers a German-Jewish narrative of national German history. The diaries were born of the will to render transparent, clarify and elucidate what happens but remains indescribable without exempla. To capture the times in thought, to understand their genesis, can only succeed if a multiplicity of individual recollections are collected, as it would otherwise be impossible to show everything and to make it plausible in its entirety; and there would otherwise be no gain in knowledge. This knowledge assumes the existence of a conglomeration of facts and can nonetheless grasp its own time in collected anecdotes. The encyclopaedic, minutely descriptive style of Klemperer is the adequate method. The diaries present a catalogued discursive cross-section of everyday life over a period of five decades of German history. We would like to study the various discursive constellations to be found in the diaries of Victor Klemperer, in order to present a cultural-scientific study of the importance of Klemperer's diaries for a reconstruction of the problematic German-Jewish identity and the 'everyday life' of a German-Jewish scholar in the Third Reich.

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Research team(s)

'Des deutschen Dichters Sendung': The collective symbolism and rhetorical structure of political religion in the poetry of the Junge Mannschaft. 01/10/2014 - 30/09/2016

Abstract

This research project aims to contribute to the understanding of the rhetorical structure and collective symbolism of political-religious discourse in the Nazi-biased poetry of the literary group Junge Mannschaft (1933-1945). This study combines a historical and a context-based approach to National Socialist poetry with a textanalytical one, through Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

'Des deutschen Dichters Sendung': The Collective Symbolism and Rhetorical Structure of Political Religion in the Poetry of the Junge Mannschaft. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2014

Abstract

This research project aims to contribute to the understanding of the rhetorical structure and collective symbolism of political-religious discourse in the Nazi-biased poetry of the literary group Junge Mannschaft (1933-1945). This study combines a historical and a context-based approach to National Socialist poetry with a textanalytical one, through Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA).

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)