This book provides a comprehensive compilation of essays on the relationship between formal experimentation and ethics in a number of generically hybrid or "liminal" narratives dealing with individual and collective traumas, running the spectrum from the testimonial novel and the fictional autobiography to the fake memoir, written by a variety of famous, more neglected contemporary British, Irish, US, Canadian, and German writers.
Building on the psychological insights and theorizing of the fathers of trauma studies (Janet, Freud, Ferenczi) and of contemporary trauma critics and theorists, the articles examine the narrative strategies, structural experimentations and hybridizations of forms, paying special attention to the way in which the texts fight the unrepresentability of trauma by performing rather than representing it. The ethicality or unethicality involved in this endeavor is assessed from the combined perspectives of the non-foundational, non-cognitive, discursive ethics of alterity inspired by Emmanuel Levinas, and the ethics of vulnerability. This approach makes Contemporary Trauma Narratives an excellent resource for scholars of contemporary literature, trauma studies and literary theory.
Table of Contents
Introduction Performing the Void: Liminality and the Ethics of Form in Contemporary Trauma Narratives Jean-Michel Ganteau and Susana Onega Part 1: Ethics and Generic Hybridity 1. Learning from Fakes: Memoir, Confessional Ethics, and the Limits of Genre Leigh Gilmore 2. ". . . with a foot in both worlds": The Liminal Ethics of Jenny Diski’s Postmodern Fables Maria Grazia Nicolosi 3. Witnessing without Witnesses: Atwood’s Oryx and Crake as Limit-Case of Fictional Testimony Marie-Luise Kohlke 4. "I do remember terrible dark things, and loss, and noise": Historical Trauma and its Narrative Representation in Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture Rudolf Freiburg Part 2: Ethics and the Aesthetics of Excess 5. Vulnerable Form and Traumatic Vulnerability: Jon McGregor's Even the Dogs Jean-Michel Ganteau 6. Ethics, Aesthetics and History in Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quintet Dianne Vipond 7. The Ethics of Breaking up the Family Romance in David Mitchell’s Number9Dream Gerd Bayer 8. "circling and circling and circling. . .whirligogs": A Knotty Novel for a Tangled Object Trauma in Will Self’s Umbrella Georges Letissier Part 3: Ethics and Structural Experimentation 9. Family Archive Fever: Daniel Mendelsohn's The Lost Marc Amfreville 10. "The Roche limit": Digression and Return in W. G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn Ivan Stacy 11. "Separateness and Connectedness": Generational Trauma and the Ethical Impulse in Anne Karpf’s The War After: Living with the Holocaust Silvia Pellicer-Ortín 12. Hybridity, Montage and the Rhetorics and Ethics of Suffering in Anne Michaels’s Fugitive Pieces Susana Onega
Susana Onega is Professor of English at the University of Zaragoza, Spain. She is a member of the Academia Europaea, a former Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, and the Head of a research team currently working on ethics and trauma.
Jean-Michel Ganteau teaches British literature at the Université Montpellier 3, France. He is the main editor of the journal Etudes britanniques contemporaines and the co-editor of the ‘Present Perfect’ series (PULM).
‘An original collection which will make a significant contribution to the study of literature and trauma’
Susan Derwin, Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA