Contemporary American Trauma Narratives by Alan Gibbs

By Alan Gibbs

This booklet seems to be on the manner writers current the consequences of trauma of their paintings. It explores narrative units, akin to 'metafiction', in addition to occasions in modern the US, together with September 11, the Iraq warfare, and reactions to the Bush management. modern American authors who're mentioned intensive contain Carol Shields, Toni Morrison, Tim O'Brien, Mark Danielewski, paintings Spiegelman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Anthony Swofford, Evan Wright, Paul Auster, Philip Roth, and Michael Chabon. modern American Trauma Narratives deals a well timed and dissenting intervention into debates approximately American writers' depiction of trauma and its after-effects.

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In affirming the centrality of innovation whilst identifying a specific (and sometimes prescriptive) trauma aesthetic. Paradoxically, the aesthetic means to convey the singularity of a traumatic aporia has now become highly conventionalized, the narratives and tropes of traumatic fiction easily identified. (89) While foundational trauma texts such as these employed a pioneering aesthetic to politically radical effect, once these techniques were recognised as conventions by critics and adopted as techniques by writers their effect was blunted.

Both of these dynamics may be readily found in the fictional literature of trauma, as sufferer-narrators either deny, mislead, or elide details of traumatic events (generally only temporarily), or gradually edge towards confronting their pasts. What I am referring to as the ‘trauma genre’ draws in relatively unquestioning ways upon a simplified and restricted range of those aspects of trauma theory most widely disseminated into European and, especially, American culture. These include the punctual model of trauma introduction 25 critiqued above, which in literature typically produces characters who suffer symptoms such as involuntary flashbacks, nightmares, and cycles of repetitive, often self-destructive behaviour, without having access to memories of the originating cause.

Thus the syndrome of psychological trauma, periodically forgotten and periodically rediscovered through the past century, finally attained formal recognition within the diagnostic canon’ (28, emphasis added). Italics in the above quotations highlight what is being elided 44 contemporary american trauma narratives here with regard to the construction rather than the alleged discovery or recognition of PTSD. 3. Other examples of checklist criticism abound in the explosion of writing about trauma texts in the last fifteen or so years.

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