Role reversal in Postwar Austrian and German Jewish Literature

By Dr. Robert Lawson

Dr. Robert Lawson

This book by Dr. Robert Lawson, Department of German and Russian, examines role reversal and passing in postwar Austrian and German Jewish literature. Role reversal is a strategy in which individuals or characters in a literary text transform their identities by assuming attributes commonly associated with their opposites. Passing refers to the way in which individuals or characters hide their identity in order to cross ethnic or social boundaries.

This study examines a wide range of narratives by Austrian and German Jewish writers, beginning with role reversal and passing in the work of Edgar Hilsenrath and Jurek Becker, two first generation German Jewish authors whose writing establishes certain patterns that second generation writers have adopted in their prose.

The book then explores how second generation writers adapt those patterns for their own purposes. Dr. Lawson argues that role reversal and passing serve to counter anti-Semitic stereotypes to highlight the identity problems of second generation Jews in Austria and in Germany and to criticize the way in which non-Jewish Germans and Austrians have dealt with the Holocaust. He also argues that gender and nationality influence the way in which these authors use role reversing and passing.

In the final chapter, Dr. Lawson examines two real life cases of role reversal as documented in the memoir of Binjamin Wilkomirski, a non-Jewish Swiss posing as a Holocaust victim, and the wartime chronicle of Solomon Perel, a German Jew who disguised himself as a Hitler Youth to survive the war.

Dr. Lawson's research focuses on Austrian and German Jewish Literature, Holocaust Literature, Literature and culture of the Weimar Republic and expressionism.

Role reversal in Postwar Austrian and German Jewish Literature is published by Der Andere Verlag in Germany

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