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The Beauty of a Social ProblemPhotography, Autonomy, Economy$
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Walter Benn Michaels

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226210261

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226210438.001.0001

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Never Again, or Nevermore

Never Again, or Nevermore

(p.153) 5 Never Again, or Nevermore
The Beauty of a Social Problem

Walter Benn Michaels

University of Chicago Press

Just as Maggie Nelson’s Jane has a picture of the real (non-fictional) Jane at its center, so does Jonathan Littell’s novel, The Kindly Ones, originate with the photo of a Russian partisan, killed by the Nazis. This chapter is about Littell’s ambition to use her death and the Holocaust more generally to make what he calls “Literature,” an act that involves repudiating the ethical demands of “witness” and replacing them with the idea of a “perfect” work of art. And it’s this commitment to the “perfect” that provides a final emblem of the class aesthetic that this book seeks to describe.

Keywords:   Jonathan Littell, Maggie Nelson, The Kindly Ones, aesthetic, Holocaust, witness

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