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The Historical UncannyDisability, Ethnicity, and the Politics of Holocaust Memory$
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Susanne C. Knittel

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823262786

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823262786.001.0001

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Bridging the Silence, Part I

Bridging the Silence, Part I

The Disabled Enabler

Chapter:
(p.72) Chapter Two Bridging the Silence, Part I
Source:
The Historical Uncanny
Author(s):

Susanne C. Knittel

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823262786.003.0003

This chapter takes an analysis of the problematic representation of Nazi euthanasia in the TV miniseries Holocaust as the point of departure for an examination of the more general difficulties inherent in the representation of mental illness. It discusses a series of literary texts by Heinrich Böll, Wolfdietrich Schnurre, Alfred Andersch, Christoph Hein, and Günter Grass, which feature “disabled enabler” figures— mentally ill characters whose quasi-prophetic insight helps the protagonist in critical situations. This ostensibly empowering representation is in fact highly limiting and serves ultimately only to reinforce stereotypical notions of disability. Grass's The Tin Drum emerges as a litmus test for the attitudes toward mental illness in West Germany fifteen years after the war: an examination of the novel's contemporary reception reveals striking continuities between pre- and postwar Germany with regard to the rhetoric of deviancy and the preservation of the health of the body politic.

Keywords:   Disabled enabler, Representation, Mental illness, Reception, The Tin Drum, Literature

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