Aimee Pozorski’s essay, “Traumatic Survival and the Loss of a Child: Reznikoff’s Holocaust Revisited” grew out of her interdisciplinary work at Emory University from 1998-2003, where scholars from the Emory University Psychoanalytic Institute and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences talked regularly with one another about trauma and traumatic history.
As a humanities scholar who also took courses at the psychoanalytic institute, Pozorski began wondering about repeated references to murdered children in post-Holocaust literature. Her background in psychoanalysis, a field that trained her to notice stumbling blocks and repetitions as signs of trauma, provided Pozorski with a unique conceptual apparatus to bring to bear on her observations. She noticed that contemporary authors seem to stumble on references to dead and dying infants in the most unexpected places, and subsequently questioned what that “stumbling” might say about our culture at large in the wake of the Holocaust. Such questioning led her to the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UC-San Diego, which houses Reznikoff’s archived papers. Here in the archive, she noticed Reznikoff’s concern about dead infants in history — in Reznikoff’s drafts, in the margins of testimony, in scribbled notes to himself to “follow mother & child.” Such a discovery led Pozorski to conclude in this article:
Whether through strategy or accident, it is Reznikoff’s perception of the deeply felt bond between mother and child that leads him to “follow mother & child” from the transcripts of the Eichmann and Nuremberg trials to the lines of his Holocaust. In following mother and child to this very place, Reznikoff finds death and survival in an image that constitutes simultaneously a literary figure unearthed in history and a literal fact unearthed from the grave. Such a reading, I hope, allows us not only to reconsider Holocaust as an Objectivist masterpiece, but also to reconsider Objectivism itself, caught as it is between objectivity and emotion when it comes to matters of life and death.
Just as she grappled with repeated references to infanticide in canonical literature during the last decade, Pozorski has recently shifted her focus to the repeated, and often criticized, figure of the falling man in post-9/11 literature. Current President of the Philip Roth Society, she is also at work on a monograph under contract with Continuum Press entitled, Roth and Trauma. She has published articles in Philip Roth Studies, Studies in American and Jewish Literature, MELUS, The Hemingway Review and Connecticut Review. Most recently, she co-edited, with Miriam Jaffe-Foger, the special issue of Philip Roth Studies entitled, “Mourning Zuckerman.”