Lecture: Elisabeth Krimmer (Univ. CA-Davis)

"Philomela’s Legacy: Rape, World War II, and the Ethics of Reading"

This talk discusses the mass rape of German women during the end of World War II, when the Russian army advanced West. These rapes have resisted representation more than many other wartime experiences of women, in part because of the taboo and shame associated with all forms of rape and in part because these rapes are politically explosive since most victims were citizens of Nazi Germany and thus members of the perpetrator nation.

Through readings of Russian and German memoirs and of historical texts, the talk explores 1) the rhetoric of rape, an experience that is often narrativized as gap or absence; 2) our own discomfort with narratives that defy conventional moral categories; 3) our role as readers who enjoy the luxury of detachment because, unlike the memoirist, we are not trapped in bodies that bear the trauma of history.