Time and Trauma in Twentieth-century Literature
Abstr. due: 09.09.2016
Dates: 23.03.17 — 26.03.17
Organizing comittee e-mail: email@example.com
Organizers: Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) 2017
If the work of trauma studies has a single command, it is to more closely listen to what absences tell us. Aligned with the generative impulse of Fred Moten’s apt phrase, “in the break”—which he contends is the transformative space, or lack thereof, out of which radical black aesthetics emerges—the literature of trauma is often punctuated by breaks, specifically, breaks in a normative conception of linear, chronological time that engender an alternative temporal ontology. In trauma narratives, what it means to survive often emerges in the break or through what remains unspeakable about a past traumatic experience. In turn, such narratives put readers to task, calling upon them to be present in the task of listening to the absences of a fractured history. If as trauma theorist Cathy Caruth contends in Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History, trauma is “[a] wound of the mind—[a] breach in the mind’s experience of time, self, and the world,” then how does literature signify, perform, and, perhaps, recuperate such a breach? What kinds of aesthetic strategies and formal devices capture the temporal experience of trauma and its complex relation to the past? What is time’s relation to readerly experience as a platform for witnessing trauma? How might stories of trauma contain a sense of futurity by presuming a readerly audience?
This call solicits papers that explore the temporal dynamics of traumatic experience in twentieth-century literature. In particular, this session seeks papers that address questions of trauma and time from the intersections of trauma studies and various other theoretical disciplines such as queer theory, critical race theory, and postcolonial studies. How might a cross-theoretical discourse about trauma engender a more nuanced understanding of trauma’s relation to time?