Beyond Good and Evil? Perpetrators in Contemporary Memory Culture
Susanne Knittel will be speaking as part of the Utrecht Literature Festival.
A striking feature of recent novels and films that deal with difficult or troubling pasts (e.g. World War II and the Holocaust) is the way that they question the simple binary of good and evil: it is no longer easy to divide the world into ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. This moral uncertainty is difficult to reconcile with contemporary memory culture and commemorative practice, which depends on a clear distinction between victim and perpetrator. In these recent novels and films, by contrast, the reader or viewer is often invited to consider the events not only through the eyes of the victims, but also of the perpetrators, which can be profoundly uncomfortable, but may also, for that reason, prompt him or her to think critically about these atrocities and the motivations of the men and women who carried them out. In this talk I will give a brief overview of recent developments in cultural memory studies with special emphasis on the figure of the perpetrator with the help of some key examples from the last ten years.
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