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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.66, No.2, 233 ~ 248, 2020
Literature about Genocides: Politics, Pedagogy, & Aesthetics
Seiwoong Oh
In the US, as of today, twelve states require middle and high school teachers to “prepare students to confront the immorality of the Holocaust, genocide, and other acts of mass violence and to reflect on the causes of related historical events.” Other states are following suit, and there is an increasing pressure from various sectors of society to have all fifty states require instruction on the Holocaust and other genocides. Years ago, I felt obligated to prepare my secondary education majors to teach the required subject, and I happened to have a scholarly interest in the narrative strategies to depict and convey “unspeakable” and “unthinkable” traumatic experiences of genocides. I have since been teaching genocide literature in some of my courses, and this essay reflects on that experience. How do I choose textbooks while considering the aesthetic merits of each text, its teachability and accessibility, and the competing demands of Holocaust organizations and other social groups? Once texts are chosen, how do I engage students to help them understand and care about past events that happened worlds away to people they may consider as “Other”? How do I deal with emotional, moral, socio-political, and literary issues in a way that does justice to the victims? Once a semester is through, how do I assess my teaching effectiveness?
Key Words
genocide, literature, pedagogy, politics, aesthetics
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