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Limit Experiences

A Study of Twentieth-Century Forms of Representation


Jacek Leociak

In his work Limit Experiences, Jacek Leociak addresses questions that are fundamental to the twentieth-century experience: How can we represent such traumatic events as the Holocaust? Was Lyotard correct when he claimed that reality had succumbed to the gas chambers? How can we describe the «indescribable»? Moving seamlessly through such topics as the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, the carpet bombing of Dresden, and Jews left for dead in the Nazi execution pits who miraculously «exited the grave» alive, Professor Leociak succeeds in offering readers a profound representation of twentieth-century limit experiences by embedding them in a broad array of sources and building around them a rich historical context.

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Experience as an Organizing Category


Subject and Structure

Sources and Research Method

Part I

1 Topography and Existence

Romantic Heroization

Ironic Criticism

Divided City

Metaphors of the Ghetto

Taking an Aryan Tram through the Warsaw Ghetto

2 Bombardment

Bombardment and the “Morale of the Civilian Population”

The Target: Civilian Morale

Bombardment in the Second World War

Preliminary Stage

First Stage: From May 1940 to November 1941

Second Stage: From February 1942 to the Middle of 1944

Third Stage: From the Summer of 1944 to War’s End

Bombing and Morality

The Experience of Bombardment

Total War

The Speed and Completeness of Destruction

The Moment of (Macabre) Transformation


The (Re-)Construction of Memory

Accounts by Victims

Perpetrators’ Accounts


German Attitudes

Victor Klemperer – Józef Mackiewicz – Kurt Vonnegut

Timothy Garton Ash and Kevin Alfred Strom

Winfried Georg Sebald – Jörg Friedrich – Frederick Taylor

Part II

3 Looks

Faces in extremis

Before Marching off to the Front

Damaged Photographs of (from) the Holocaust

Let Us pause for a moment on the Matter of Damage

Types of Damaged Photographs

Kinds of Damage

The Private Photograph

Clandestine Photographs

Interpretive Tropes

Damage as a Stigma of the Holocaust

Damage as a Vestige of the Holocaust

Damage as a Metonym for the Holocaust

Children of the Holocaust: Obverse and Reverse

The Boy from the Warsaw Ghetto

A Boy from the Łódź Ghetto


4 Encounters with a Corpse

The Postmortem Dissection

Between the Grotesque and the Sublime

In the Arms of Eudoxie’s Corpse

The Earth Discloses Its Corpses

Contemporary Antigone

Ancient Tradition

The Inhumanity of the Twentieth Century

“A City Engulfed by Plague”

The Cemetery That Is Not a Cemetery

Rescuing Funeral Rituals


Exiting the Grave




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