Empathy effects: towards an understanding of empathy in British and American Holocaust theatre

Mitschke, Samantha (2015). Empathy effects: towards an understanding of empathy in British and American Holocaust theatre. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis considers how and why empathy is important in Anglo-American Holocaust theatre, utilising close readings of selected plays, existing theories of empathy and Holocaust representation, and authorial formulations of new empathic definitions. The first chapter examines the empathic responses of Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett and Meyer Levin to Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, and how these subsequently affected their stage adaptations of the book. The second chapter interrogates how spectator empathy with child protagonists is problematic in terms of the 'Holocaust fairytale' narrative often used, leading to spectator misinformation in the context of historical fact. The third chapter investigates British critical responses to Bent in both 1979 and 1990 in terms of 'precocious testimony', establishing that Bent was only received in its proper socio-political context upon the emergence of overt contemporary queer oppression. The final chapter explores how 'empty empathy', engendered by 'Holocaust etiquette', can be challenged through inverting Holocaust signs, or 'balagan', in 'Holocaust cabarets' to evoke alternative audience responses. The thesis concludes that empathy is central in Holocaust theatre, enabling spectators to identify and engage with representative characters - fulfilling the didactic purpose of Holocaust theatre in teaching about the genocide and encouraging anti-prejudicial views.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of Drama & Theatre Arts
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/6362


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