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Writing As Resistance: Four Women…

Writing As Resistance: Four Women Confronting the Holocaust: Edith Stein,…

by Rachel Feldhay Brenner

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 027102285X, Paperback)

In this account of the life, work and ethics of four Jewish female intellectuals in the world of the Holocaust, Rachel Feldhay Brenner explores the ways in which these women sought to maintain their faith in humanity while aware of exacerbating destruction. She argues that through their written responses of autobiographical self-assertion Edith Stein, Simone Weil, Anne Frank and Etty Hillesum resisted the Nazi terror in ways that defy its horrifying dehumanization. Personal identity crises engendered the intellectual-spiritual acts of autobiograpical self-searching for each of these women. About to become a nun in 1933, Edith Stein embarked on her autobiography as a daughter of a Jewish family. Fleeing France and deportation in 1942, Simone Weil examined her inner struggle with faith and the Church in her "Spiritual Autobiography". Hiding for over two years in the attic, Anne Frank poignantly confides in her diary about her efforts to become a better person. Having volunteered as a social worker in Westerbork, Etty Hillesum searches her soul for love in the reality of terror. In each case, autobiographical writing becomes an act of defiance that asserts humanity in a dehumanized/dehumanizing world. By focusing on the four women's accomplishments as intellectuals, writers and thinkers, Brenner's account liberates them from other posthumous treatments that depict them as symbols of altruism, sanctity and victimization. Her approach also elucidates the particular predicament of Western Jewish intellectuals, who trusted the ideals of the Enlightenment and believed in human fellowship. While suffering the terror of physical annihilation decreed by the Final Solution, these Jews had to contend with their exclusion from the world that they considered theirs. On yet another level, this study of four extraordinary life stories contributes to a deeper understanding of the postwar development of ethical, theological and feminist thought. In showing concern about a world that had ceased to care for them, Stein, Weil, Frank and Hillesum demonstrated that the meaning of human existence consisted in the responsibility for the other, in the protection of the suffering God, in the primary value of relatedness through empathy. Arguing that their ethical tenets anticipated the thought of such postwar thinkers as Levinas, Fackenheim, Tillich, Arendt and Nodding, Brenner proposes that the breakup of the humanist tradition of the Enlightenment in the Holocaust engendered the postwar exploration of humanist potential in self-givenness to the other.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:01 -0400)

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