The Irish Potato Famine and The Holocaust in Literature

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The Irish Potato Famine and The Holocaust in Literature

Writers often use literature as a means of communicating traumatic events that occur in history, and such events are recorded by first-hand accounts as well as remembered by people far removed from the situation. Two traumatic events in history that are readily found in literature are The Irish Potato Famine and The Holocaust. A literary medium that has been used quite poignantly to convey trauma is poetry and the poetry from these two historical traumatic events is not difficult to find. Some wrote poetry to maintain their sanity as they experienced the traumatic event while others wrote after-the-fact as an outlet for emotional pain. Some wrote in remembrance of what they had lived through and so that others in succeeding generations could fathom even a glimpse of their traumatic experience. Another group of writers, far removed from the events, felt they had some light to shed on the subject. These people may be from a background similar to the victims or very learned on the matter surrounding it. A reader may wonder why poetry is such a viable option for conveying the trauma of so many people. Hilda Schiff writes, “the contemporaneous literature of any period of history is not only an integral part of that period, but it also allows us to understand historical events and experiences better than the bare facts alone can do because they enable us to absorb them inwardly” (xiv). The facts are raw and bare, like a skeleton. The literature and poetry add the skin and features to the bones to make the people and images they represent more realistic.

Historians hope that by teaching younger generations about historical mistakes of the past, the knowledge will...

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... ed. The Last Lullaby, Poetry from the Holocaust. Syracuse University Press, 1998.

Miller, Alice. For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-rearing and the Roots Of Violence. Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1983: 197.

Morash, Christopher. Writing the Irish Famine. Clarendon Press, 1995.

Parmet, Harriet L. The Terror of Our Days. Lehigh University Press, 2001.

Reznikoff, Charles. from “Holocaust.” Holocaust Poetry. Ed. Hilda Schiff. St. Martin’s Press, 1995: 78-80.

Sachs, Nelly. “A Dead Child Speaks.” Holocaust Poetry. Ed. Hilda Schiff. St. Martin’s Press, 1995: 67.

Schiff, Hilda ed. Holocaust Poetry. St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Tal, Kali. Words of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma. Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Wiesel, Elie. “Never Shall I Forget.” Holocaust Poetry. Ed. Hilda Schiff. St.Martin’s Press, 1995: 42.

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