Contiguous spaces of remembrance in identity writing : chemistry, fiction and the autobiographic question in Primo Levi's 'The Periodic Table'

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European Review of History: Revue europeenne d'histoire. 2012, 19(5), pp. 711-727. ISSN 1350-7486. eISSN 1469-8293. Available under: doi: 10.1080/13507486.2012.719010
Zusammenfassung

In this paper the author draws on Primo Levi's problematic use of biographic narrative techniques by means of a systematic and symbolic co-ordination of a selection of 21 inorganic elements pertaining to Mendeleyev's periodic table. By exploring the mechanisms of remembrance and trauma in conjunction with chemistry and the necessities of testimony, the author argues that Primo Levi's collection of vignettes both reaffirms and challenges modern conceptions of autobiography. The author applies the Greek concept of techné to notions of biographic authorship, and shows how work as narrative/linguistic skill, on the one hand, and laboratory work as scientific engagement with material elements, on the other, are combined in the figure of the Holocaust survivor cum writer-scientist in order to negotiate and restore human integrity. The author sustains that Levi's decade-long attempts to alleviate personal trauma are conditioned by this reinstatement of human dignity through science and intellect; essentially, Levi strives to rehabilitate the concept of life itself, so damaged by the event of the Holocaust and equally central to (auto)biographic literature and the domain of chemistry.

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800 Literatur, Rhetorik, Literaturwissenschaft
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Primo Levi, autobiography, memory, chemical science, Mendeleyev's periodic table, Holocaust trauma, Jewish identity, introspection, homo faber, homo narrans, homo scientificus
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ISO 690BOTEZ, Catalina, 2012. Contiguous spaces of remembrance in identity writing : chemistry, fiction and the autobiographic question in Primo Levi's 'The Periodic Table'. In: European Review of History: Revue europeenne d'histoire. 2012, 19(5), pp. 711-727. ISSN 1350-7486. eISSN 1469-8293. Available under: doi: 10.1080/13507486.2012.719010
BibTex
@article{Botez2012Conti-20708,
  year={2012},
  doi={10.1080/13507486.2012.719010},
  title={Contiguous spaces of remembrance in identity writing : chemistry, fiction and the autobiographic question in Primo Levi's 'The Periodic Table'},
  number={5},
  volume={19},
  issn={1350-7486},
  journal={European Review of History: Revue europeenne d'histoire},
  pages={711--727},
  author={Botez, Catalina}
}
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