Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences


Modern Languages and Literatures

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lois Oppenheim

Committee Member

Pascale LaFountain

Committee Member

Kathleen Loysen


Focusing on the Holocaust, one of the most heart-wrenching time periods in French history, this thesis analyzes the various coping mechanisms of people who have been deeply affected by this tragedy. The Holocaust had a profound effect on many different types of individuals including victims, witnesses, collaborators, and even journalists. It is crucial to investigate the long-term effects and coping strategies to better understand how people deal with trauma. The purpose of this work is to demonstrate that while trauma is long-lasting, it is necessary to find methods to deal with the painful memories. However, the ways in which people overcome debilitating thoughts is a very personal process.

This thesis aims to examine the spectrum of coping mechanisms such as creative literary and visual representations of traumatic events and interpersonal approaches used by both real people and fictional characters. The director, Louis Malle, and the researcher and writer, Patrick Modiano, cope with the past by re-creating their own traumatic memories in autobiographies and films, and projecting their own experiences into fictionalized novels. Others, such as the characters of Sarah Starzynski and Julia Jarmond in Elle s ’appelait Sarah, confront traumatic emotions in a way that is more revealing of their individuality. Every tactic is unique but all methods can lead to understanding, healing, and acceptance of the past.

The comparative analysis of various coping mechanisms begins by exploring the lives and works of Malle and Modiano. Then the study moves onto the historical foundation of the Roundup of the Velodrome d’Hiver, a harrowing Holocaust event. Finally, the work concentrates on individual ways to overcome post-traumatic stress through the journeys of Sarah and Julia. To conclude, this thesis examines the actions the French government took to make amends for past mistakes and to start the process of healing.

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