Trauma and Survival in Contemporary Fiction

traumaandsurvival

How can trauma be written, or read about, when much of the impact of traumatic events is so overwhelming as to debilitate functional emotional, cognitive, and physical responses? Vickroy considers the formal, thematic, and ethical factors at stake in literature that explores trauma, including cultural ideas about identity, relationality, and intentionality. She focuses on Marguerite Duras, Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danticat, Dorothy Allison, and Pat Barker, among others. Steering away from psychoanalysis towards sociocultural and political causes of and responses to trauma makes this a more interesting work in my view, but often leads to a simplification of how trauma is aestheticised. Similarly, her contention that such literature encourages critical engagement and engages readers’ empathy in a way that is socially reparative is very optimistic. My main problem with this book was none of it felt particularly new and, in fact, much of it felt retrogressive, especially the discussion of the mother/child bond without much critique of such essentialist assumptions.

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