Document Type

Honors Project

Abstract

This project comprises an academic dissertation on the difficult subject of testimonial literature, a genre of literature of testimonial accounts by survivors of events of war and genocide through which they became witnesses, as well as on the critical theory of bio-politics. The first part of this study concentrates on three different objects: non-fictional texts, those by survivors of the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide for example, and, fictional texts produced by witnesses; the novel Blood from the Sky by Auschwitz survivor Piotr Rawicz is one such fictional text often ignored by the academy. The third object is testimony as a historical concept considered from the Christian era by the concept of a martyr-witness, through its place in juridical thought, realist literature to its appearance as a phenomenon of literary production of soldiers in the First World War studied by the scholar Jean-Norton Cru. Aspects of cultural and literary theory on different styles of representing the social reality are compared, and brought into a new light by the presentation of testimonial literature. The second part of this study enlarges this discussion of testimonial literature to critical theory, in particular to the theory of power developed by philosopher Michel Foucault called "bio-political theory." His theory is often considered as a critical engagement with the same historical events which the witnesses of testimonial literature lived through, and his "decentered" methodology is compared with the project of testimony. His thesis on the expansion of governmental power to the regulation of the potentialities of populations comports significance to the texts of witnesses of power. We also examine the theses advanced by Kiarina Kordela, that bio-politics consists of a "worldliness of the religious," and , that aesthetics organize differently the bio-political symptom of an "impossible omniscience," and, that bio-politics inaugurates new social divisions which can be conceived of as the organization of mortality and immortality. In conclusion, I try to question the place of literature in this domain of bio-politics to see how testimonial literature both interacts with and subverts this new form of power.

 
 

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