When we dress Holocaust texts in too much sanctity, we miss how badly they behave. We may also miss the odd ways a testimony's figures of speech invite readers or listeners to misbehave: to try too hard to recover a sacred sense of witnessing. How do ordinary techniques of literary or conversational speech change shape in the context of testimony? What happens when Charlotte Delbo uses metaphor, simile, or personification to convey her experiences in Auschwitz? What happens to oral testimony when Holocaust survivors bear witness while the camera records parasemantic body language that swerves away from this witnessing? This essay explores the ways that testimonies handle the ethical question of community, entanglement, or proximity by inventing figures of speech or body language that deflect an audience's rapport even as they summon us.
Skip Nav Destination
Patricia Yaeger; Testimony without Intimacy. Poetics Today 1 June 2006; 27 (2): 399–423. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2005-010
Download citation file: