Fellow 2007-08

Brett Ashley Kaplan

Comparative & World Literature


During her Center appointment, Professor Kaplan plans to complete a book, Landscapes of Holocaust Postmemory, in which she will offer new insights into the political, cultural, physical, and psychological effects of the past on the present.

Professor Kaplan is exploring the intersections of landscape (both real and imagined spaces), postmemory (the effects of memory for generations living after those who experienced the Holocaust), and trauma (experiences so difficult to understand that they both repeat and require a great deal of effort to work through). Her book goes beyond extant works that treat the memory of the Nazi genocide, because it looks at the history embodied in the landscape and because it treats the politics of how the Holocaust is employed.

One landscape example she explores at length is the Obersalzberg holiday complex, where Hitler built a Berghof frequented by global dignitaries. Today, the complex is home to a five-star InterContinental hotel; visitors can take a dip in a beautiful pool located where a Nazi holiday house once stood. Even as this above-ground topography is re-shaped, an extensive below-ground bunker system stubbornly remains – complete with swastikas and anti-Semitic and anti-queer slogans.

At a difficult historical moment when the fear of terrorism, the dangers of global warming, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and a questionable political process combine to destabilize our sense of well-being, this examination of how the Holocaust continues to exert its influence on our physical and mental landscapes offers a reflection on how our traumatic present will become the traumatic past of tomorrow.