I think I can be proud of myself, or maybe not. Today in my class on the Holocaust and Judaism, a student, let’s call her “Jackie” asked how to make sense of Lanzmann’s Shoah. She was clearly disoriented by the slow and plodding discursive form of the film. I suggested that one could take running notes through the film, creating a written track of the scenes, and then maybe cataloging themes and figures. This problem of disorientation was of course deliberate on the part of the filmmaker. Or why not live-tweet it, I then suggested, at which the class erupted. You just don’t do. “Rachel” thought the idea was “effed-up.” But why not create a compressed and running record of the film? I told my young students about a magical place called art-cinemas where you could go out in public to watch with others old and complicated movies, and that’s where one would have gone to see Shoah in the 1980s. I told them also that, alas, these places no longer exist. About live tweeting Lanzmann’s film,  I suggested that Twitter forces one to compress one’s thinking, and that this type of compression is correlate to the sparse and affectless style of the best examples of modernist Holocaust writing. I made the obvious point that this was not a conversation we could have had ten years ago, which makes the somewhat less obvious point about how technological media determine by way of formatting the way we come to an understanding of the world. In the end, “Rachel” said that a #Shoah hashtag would play complete havoc with her Twitter feed, would be too disruptive of something profoundly awful into her online life. “Ryan” suggested he’d do it for extra credit. I still think it’s kind of a good idea.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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