Holocaust Impiety in Jewish American Literature

Memory, Identity, (Post-)Postmodernism


The Holocaust is often said to be unrepresentable. Yet since the 1990s, a new generation of Jewish American writers have been returning to this history again and again, insisting on engaging with it in highly playful, comic, and “impious” ways. Focusing on the fiction of Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer, Nicole Krauss, and Nathan Englander, this book suggests that this literature cannot simply be dismissed as insensitive or improper. It argues that these Jewish American authors engage with the Holocaust in ways that renew and ensure its significance for contemporary generations. These ways, moreover, are intricately connected to efforts of finding new means of expressing Jewish American identity, and of moving beyond the increasingly apparent problems of postmodernism.
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Biographical Note

Joost Krijnen is a lecturer of English at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences in Zwolle, the Netherlands. He previously taught American Studies at the University of Groningen. In 2014, he was awarded his Ph.D. cum laude at the University of Groningen.

Table of contents

Introduction: Ever After Auschwitz; Holocaust Piety, Impiety, and Jewish American Fiction


1. Historical Consciousness and the Americanization of the Holocaust

2. The Dynamic of Distance: The Memory of the Holocaust in Everything Is Illuminated, The History of Love, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay


3. Jewish American Identity and the Holocaust

4. Inventing Jewish Worlds: Identity, History, and the Holocaust in Everything Is Illuminated, The History of Love, The Ministry of Special Cases, and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union


5. Cultivating the Desert: Pragmatist Reconfigurations of Postmodernism

6. Post-Postmodern “Entertainment”: The Holocaust and Renewalism in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Everything Is Illuminated, The History of Love, and Great House

Afterword: An American Story



All interested in Jewish American and Holocaust literature, and anyone concerned with questions of cultural memory, American identity, and postmodernism.