Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Comparative Literature


James Miller


The term “Holocaust” implies a narrative of religious sacrifice: the impulse to construct coherent stories out of the complex of events and experiences in the ghettoes and death camps springs from a desire to find meaning in what might otherwise seem meaningless. Recalling Dante’s quest to comprehend a European social order gone astray, three prominent framers of Holocaust narratives in the post-War era became deeply engaged with the allegorical project of the Commedia. This thesis examines Primo Levi’s typological use of Inferno in his memoir Se Questo E un Uomo (1948); Andrzej Wajda’s political engagement with Purgatorio in his film Kanal (1956); and Peter Weiss’sjudicial preoccupation with Paradiso in his play Die Ermittlung (1965). Their works reveal not only how Dantean allegory can function as an interpretive tool for understanding Holocaust narratives but also how modem understandings of the Commedia have been expanded by their readings of it.



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