Charlotte Salomon's (1917-43) fantastical autobiography, Life? or Theater?, consists of 769 sequenced gouache paintings, through which the artist imagined the circumstances of the eight suicides in her family, all but one of them women. But Salomon's focus on suicide was not merely a familial idiosyncrasy. Nothing Happened argues that the social history of early-20th-century Germany has elided an important cultural and social phenomenon by not including the story of German Jewish women and suicide. This absence in social history mirrors an even larger gap in the intellectual history of deeply gendered suicide studies that have reproduced the notion of women's suicide as a rarity in history. Nothing Happened is a historiographic intervention that operates in conversation and in tension with contemporary theory about trauma and the reconstruction of emotion in history.
This book is the first title in the new series Michigan Studies in Comparative Jewish Cultures, sponsored by the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, which will emphasize the dynamic interplay of Jews as historical subjects, Judaism as faith and practice, and Jewishness as a repertoire of cultural practices with other peoples and cultures. The series editors are Jonathan Freedman, University of Michigan; Scott Spector, University of Michigan; and Barbara Mann, The Jewish Theological Seminary.
"This courageous book will be both highly controversial and highly influential. It is an innovative form of historical argumentation based on an unconventional reading and use of evidence as well as an unusual narrative style."
—Leora Auslander, University of Chicago