HENB01391U  English - Elective 2, topic 1: (Ad)dressing the Wound: trauma theory and trauma writing

Volume 2017/2018



Trauma relates not just to physical injury, but also to a wound of the mind that resists simple comprehension. As trauma theorist Cathy Caruth argues, it is experienced ‘too suddenly’ and ‘too unexpectedly’ for the mind to process it into a coherent story, or memory. Trauma is a story that is without a clear sense of beginning, middle, and end. Unaddressed, it keeps haunting the traumatised individual through iconic images and repetitive mental re-enactments of the original event. In this course we will discuss a selection of contemporary novels that re-explore histories of victimhood and oppression through experimental narrative approaches that do not attempt to translate inconsistent traumatic memory into coherent narrative memory; rather trauma writing wants to allow the inherent incomprehensibility of trauma to be visible in the narrative as this may potentially, have a therapeutic effect. As Caruth suggests, trauma is an unclaimed, solitary experience, yet ‘the impossibility of a comprehensive story, however, does not necessarily mean the denial of a transmissible truth’ (1995:154) that can be made to surface through the collaboration of the traumatised individual and his or her witness, that is to say, between teller, listener, and indeed reader. We will look at how contemporary fiction processes traumatic experiences in the attempt to ‘represent the un-representable’ through an experimentation with genre, form, and narrative technique.

Reading list: Toni Morrison, Beloved; Michael Ondaatje, Anil’s Ghost, Taiye Selasi, Ghana Must Go; Zoë Wicomb, David’s Story and a selection of theoretical and critical texts to be uploaded to ABSALON.  

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Preparation
  • 162,75
  • Lectures
  • 42
  • Total
  • 204,75