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Pompeii in the Public Imagination from its Rediscovery to Today$
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Shelley Hales and Joanna Paul

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199569366

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199569366.001.0001

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Pompeii, the Holocaust, and the Second World War

Pompeii, the Holocaust, and the Second World War

(p.340) 23 Pompeii, the Holocaust, and the Second World War
Pompeii in the Public Imagination from its Rediscovery to Today

Joanna Paul

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the distinct use of Pompeii that emerges in the poem by Primo Levi, ‘La Bambina di Pompei’ (‘The Girl-Child of Pompeii’): that is, the recourse to Pompeii's destruction as a reference point in discourse surrounding modern disasters. This trope has a long history, reaching back to the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, and continuing in responses to events such as 9/11 or the Haiti earthquake. The chapter, however, is concerned with World War Two and the Holocaust. Pompeii's proximity to Salerno, landing point for the Allied invasion that began on 9 September 1943, placed it on the frontline of hostilities, and so part of the discussion considers the unusual experiences of visiting the site during wartime. The chapter begins by examining Pompeii's invocation as imaginative symbol, as a way of addressing the anguish of conflict and its aftermath.

Keywords:   Pompeii, Primo Levi, La Bambina di Pompei, The Girl-Child of Pompeii, World War II, Holocaust

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