Portrayals of the Holocaust in literature, paintings, and architecture have aroused many ethical debates. How can we admire, much less enjoy, art that deals with such a horrific event? Does finding beauty in Holocaust representation amount to a betrayal of its victims?

Brett Ashley Kaplan's Unwanted Beauty meets these difficult questions directly, analyzing a wide range of Holocaust representations to argue that a more careful understanding of aesthetics and its relation to history can best address the anxieties raised by beauty in Holocaust art.

Kaplan approaches this art from multiple perspectives, including the works by Holocaust survivors, and analyzes how art contributes to survival and how it functions within memory and history. Unwanted Beauty addresses the literary work of Paul Celan, Charlotte Delbo, Jorge Semprun, and Edmond Jabès; the visual art of Christian Boltanski and Anselm Kiefer; and the monuments and museums of Peter Eisenman, Jochen Gerz, Esther Shalev-Gerz, and James Ingo Freed and finds that the aesthetic pleasures in these complex and multivalent texts can transform memory in enlivening ways and open these traumatic historical events to deeper understanding.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationUrbana, IL
PublisherUniversity of Illinois Press
Number of pages240
ISBN (Print)9780252030932
StatePublished - Dec 2007


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