Tony Harrison and the Holocaust

BookTony Harrison and the Holocaust

Tony Harrison and the Holocaust

Liverpool English Texts and Studies, 39


June 1st, 2001



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This book argues that Tony Harrison’s poetry is barbaric. It revisits one of the most misquoted passages of twentieth-century philosophy: Theodor Adorno’s apparent dismissal of post-Holocaust poetry as ‘impossible’ or ‘barbaric’. His statement is reinterpreted as opening up the possibility that the awkward and embarrassing poetics of writers such as Harrison might be re-evaluated as committed responses to the worst horrors of twentieth-century history. Most of the existing critical work on Harrison focuses on his representation of class, which occludes his interest in other aspects of historiography. The poet’s predilection for establishing links between the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the prospect of global annihilation is examined as a commitment to oppose the dangers of linguistic silence. Hence Harrison’s work can be read fruitfully within the growing field of Holocaust Studies: his texts enter into arguments about the ethics of representing traumatic incidents that still haunt the contemporary. Harrison’s status as a ‘non-victim’ author of the events is stressed throughout. His writing of the Holocaust, allied bombings and atom bomb is mediated by his reception of the events through newsreels as a child, and his adoption and subversion, as an adult poet, of traditional poetic forms such as the elegy and sonnet. This book also discusses the ways in which Holocaust literature engages with a number of concepts challenged or altered by the historical events, such as love, mourning, memory, humanism, culture and barbarism, articulacy and silence.

Author Information

Antony Rowland is Professor in English at the University of Salford.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Title Page3
1: Cinema, Masturbation and Peter Pan: A Non-Victim Approach to the Holocaust43
2: Amorous Discourse and ‘Bolts of Annihilation’ in the American Poems97
3: Mourning and Annihilation in the Family Sonnets154
4: The Fragility of Memory205
5: Culture/Barbarism Dialectics in Harrison’s Poetry258