The history of my voice: Yiddish at the seams of holocaust video testimony

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Abstract

The Yiddish language emerges at the fault lines of contemporary Holocaust video testimony—as a topic of conversation, a source of intertextual quotation, and a mark of otherness on the witness’s spoken voice. Witnesses define important aspects of their life trajectories in the way they speak in and about this language. Thus far, researchers have explored the interlanguage encounter in testimony with regard to abstract problems of representation and memory. At the same time, the cultural specificity of Jewish multilingualism has been largely overlooked. This article intervenes by investigating the appearances of Yiddish in Hebrew-and in English-language testimonies, recorded in Israel and in North America over the last thirty years. Pointing out certain shared understandings about the role of Yiddish, I also show how Hebrew-and English-speaking narrators may locate Yiddish differently in their life stories. This comparative reading reveals a tension between cultural history and psychoanalysis as tools of vernacular narration and self-understanding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-97
Number of pages40
JournalProoftexts - Journal of Jewish Literature History
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015
Externally publishedYes

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