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Reading: Possessed by Postmemory: Thane Rosenbaum’s Elijah Visible


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Possessed by Postmemory: Thane Rosenbaum’s Elijah Visible


Stanislav Kolář

University of Ostrava, CZ
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This paper analyses the short story cycle Elijah Visible by Thane Rosenbaum, who represents the second generation of American writers responding to the Holocaust. Rosenbaum focuses on what is termed the intergenerational transmission of trauma. The paper attempts to show how the fragmented identity of Adam Posner, the protagonist of the cycle, has been shaped by the legacy of his parents’ Holocaust experience. It draws on Marianne Hirsch’s concept of postmemory and follows the author’s approach to his protagonist’s appropriation of the Holocaust which results in his obsession with cataclysmic wartime experiences. The paper also examines Rosenbaum’s attitude to the silence surrounding the Holocaust and its effects. It explores how the repression of the tragic family history as a defense mechanism leads to the alienation of children from their parents and profoundly complicates their mutual relationship. Furthermore, gaps and blanks in the knowledge of the past, together with the impossibility of fully grasping the original trauma, fuel the protagonist’s imagination. This imaginative investment also forms the main character’s postmemory and contributes to his feeling of being relocated in space and time—his “cattle car complex”, to quote the title of the initial story of Rosenbaum’s book.


How to Cite: Kolář, S., 2021. Possessed by Postmemory: Thane Rosenbaum’s Elijah Visible. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 20(1), pp.103–126. DOI:
Published on 29 May 2021.
Peer Reviewed


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