Monica Osborne opens her monograph The Midrashic Impulse with a brief anecdote. She recalls an occasion in which the American novelist E. L. Doctorow read an extract from his novel City of God (2000) at a Holocaust conference at Yale University in 2002. Asked to speak about the Holocaust, Doctorow gave an unexpectedly succinct reading: he took the stage to recite a list of varied items related to the Nazi genocide, such as prayer books, candelabra, and garments. In other words, rather than telling a story, as most would have expected, Doctorow merely listed a set of items, remnants of total dereliction. This episode is worth mentioning, since it captures the core of The Midrashic Impulse: the preeminence of nonrepresentational language over representation as a more appropriate response to trauma. Osborne’s book explores what she calls the midrashic impulse as a mode of writing that deals with gaps, fissures,...

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