Pain and Narrative Shape: Beyond the Indocility of Trauma in Three Newfoundland Novels
AbstractThis article looks at trauma beyond the fixation on the limits of narrative as expressed in the mainstream theory of trauma in the 1990s, in the work of Cathy Caruth, Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, among others. Its purpose is to achieve an appreciation of narrative as a navigable textual itinerary whose very flows and discontinuities are energized by a reconciliation (or lack thereof) with life’s shocking and incomprehensible moments. I build upon Amir Khadem’s rejection of the polarity between narrative and the incurable psychic wound in order to provide textual analyses of a corpus of three contemporary novels set in the context of a historically traumatized regional identity, that of Newfoundland in Canada: The Town That Forgot How to Breathe (2003), by Kenneth J. Harvey, February (2009), by Lisa Moore, and Sweetland (2014), by Michael Crummey. A revision of the role of genres traditionally used to describe historical and personal crises will help us observe how their conventions function within a context of outrage at the global and regional mismanagement of natural resources.Keywords: Canadian literature; testimony; trauma; gothic; environmental disasters; Newfoundland
Agostinho, Daniela, Elisa Antz and Cátia Ferreira. 2012a. “Introduction.” In Agostinho, Antz and Ferreira 2012b, 1-25.
—, eds. 2012b. Panic and Mourning: The Cultural Work of Trauma. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2012. Trauma: A Social Theory. Cambridge: Polity.
Al-Kassim, Dina. 2010. On Pain of Speech: Fantasies of the First Order and the Literary Rant. Berkeley: U of California P.
Almeida, Rochelle. 2004. The Politics of Mourning: Grief Management in Cross-Cultural Fiction. Madison, WI: Fairleigh Dickinson UP.
Andrews, Molly et al. 2004a. “Introduction.” In Andrews et al. 2004b, 1-17.
—, eds. 2004b. The Uses of Narrative: Explorations in Sociology, Psychology, and Cultural Studies. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction.
Bawarshi, Anis. 2003. Genre and the Invention of the Writer: Reconsidering the Place of Invention in Composition. Logan: Utah State UP.
Brooks, Peter. 1992. Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP.
Butler, Judith. 1997. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York and London: Routledge.
—. 2004. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London and New York: Verso.
Caruth, Cathy, ed. 1995. Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP.
—. 1996. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP.
Chafe, Paul. 2004. “Lament for a Notion: Loss and the Beothuk in Michael Crummey’s River Thieves.” Essays on Canadian Writing 82: 93-117.
Charman, Caitlin. 2014. “‘There Are Things You Don’t Get Over’: Resistant Mourning in Lisa Moore’s February.” Studies in Canadian Literature 39 (2): 126-48.
Crummey, Michael. 2014. Sweetland. Toronto: Doubleday Canada.
Derrida, Jacques. 1986. Mémoires: For Paul de Man. Translated by Cecile Lindsay. New York: Columbia UP.
Edwards, Justin D. 2005. Gothic Canada: Reading the Spectre of a National Literature. Edmonton: U of Alberta P.
Engdahl, Horace. 2002a. “Philomela’s Tongue: Introductory Remarks on Witness Literature.” In Engdahl 2002b, 1-14.
—, ed. 2002b. Witness Literature: Proceedings of the Nobel Centennial Symposium. River Edge, NJ: World Scientific.
Erll, Astrid and Ansgar Nünning, eds. 2010. A Companion to Cultural Memory Studies. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Farrell, Kirby. 1998. Post-Traumatic Culture: Injury and Interpretation in the Nineties. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP.
Felman, Shoshana. 1992. “Education and Crisis, or the Vicissitudes of Teaching.” In Felman and Laub 1992, 1-56.
Felman, Shoshana and Dori Laub. 1992. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. New York and London: Routledge.
Foster, Dennis A. 1987. Confession and Complicity in Narrative. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
Gilmore, Leigh. 2001. The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony. New York: Cornell UP.
Goldman, Marlene. 2012. DisPossession: Haunting in Canadian Fiction. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP.
Hanrahan, Maura. 2015. “Newfoundland: A Story of Loss & Forgetting.” In Hernáez Lerena 2015, 21-50.
Harvey, Kenneth J. 2003. The Town that Forgot How to Breathe. New York: Picador/St. Martin’s Press.
Hernáez Lerena, María Jesús, ed. 2015. Pathways of Creativity in Contemporary Newfoundland and Labrador. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars.
Johnson, Brian. 2009. “How to Build a Haunted Nation: The ‘Cheerful Ghosts’ of Robertson Davies’ High Spirits.” University of Toronto Quarterly 78 (4): 1012-28.
Kansteiner, Wulf and Harald Weilnböck. 2010. “Against the Concept of Cultural Trauma.” In Erll and Nünning 2010, 229-40.
Khadem, Amir. 2014. “Cultural Trauma as a Social Construct: 9/11 Fiction and the Epistemology of Communal Pain.” Intertexts 18 (1): 181-97.
Laub, Dori. 1992. “An Event without a Witness: Truth, Testimony and Survival.” In Felman and Laub 1992, 75-92.
McKay, Don. 1997. Apparatus. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
Moore, Lisa. 2009. February. London: Chatto & Windus.
Müller, Herta. 2002. “‘When We Don’t Speak, We Become Unbearable, and When We Do, We Make Fools of Ourselves’: Can Literature Bear Witness?” In Engdahl 2002b, 15-32.
Norberg, Jakob. 2011. “Arendt in Crisis: Political Thought in Between Past and Future.” College Literature 38 (1), 131-49.
Nünning, Vera, Jan Rupp and Gregor Ahn. 2013a. “Theoretical Explorations: Forms, Functions and Social Practice of Ritual Narrative.” In Nünning, Rupp and Ahn 2013b, 1-27.
—, eds. 2013b. Ritual and Narrative: Theoretical Explorations and Historical Case Studies. Wetzlar: Transcript.
Ryan, Marie-Laure. 2013. “Ritual Studies and Narratology: What They Can Do For Each Other.” In Nünning, Rupp and Ahn 2013b, 27-49.
Saal, Ilka. 2011. “Regarding the Pain of Self and Other: Trauma Transfer and Narrative Framing in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” Modern Fiction Studies 57 (3), 451-76.
Scarry, Elaine. 1985. The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World. New York: Oxford UP.
Spargo, R. Clifton. 2004. The Ethics of Mourning: Grief and Responsibility in Elegiac Literature. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP.
Sugars, Cynthia. 2010. “Genetic Phantoms: Geography, History, and Ancestral Inheritance in Kenneth Harvey’s The Town That Forgot How to Breathe and Michael Crummey’s Galore.” Newfoundland and Labrador Studies 25 (1), 7-36.
—. 2011. “Phantom Nation: English-Canadian Literature and the Desire for Ghosts.” Zeitschrift für Kanada-Studien 31 (2), 58-77.
Tygstrup, Frederik. 2012. “Affective Spaces.” In Agostinho, Antz and Ferreira 2012, 195-210.
Van Alphen, Ernst. 1997. Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature, and Theory. Stanford: California UP.
Wyile, Herb. 2010. “February is the Cruelest Month: Neoliberalism and the Economy of Mourning in Lisa Moore’s February.” Newfoundland and Labrador Studies 25 (1), 55-71.
The authors retain copyright of articles. They authorise AEDEAN to publish them in its journal Atlantis and to include them in the indexing and abstracting services, academic databases and repositories the journal participates in.
Under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), for non-commercial (i.e., personal or academic) purposes only, users are free to share (i.e., copy and redistribute in any medium or format) and adapt (i.e., remix, transform and build upon) articles published in Atlantis, free of charge and without obtaining prior permission from the publisher or the author(s), as long as they give appropriate credit to the author, the journal (Atlantis) and the publisher (AEDEAN), provide the relevant URL link to the original publication and indicate if changes were made. Such attribution may be done in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the journal endorses the user or their use of the material published therein. Users who adapt (i.e., remix, transform or build upon the material) must distribute their contributions under the same licence as the original.
Self-archiving is also permitted, so that authors are allowed to deposit the published PDF version of their articles in academic and/or institutional repositories, without fee or embargo. Authors may also post their individual articles on their personal websites, again on condition that the original link to the online edition is provided.
Authors are expected to know and heed basic ground rules that preclude simultaneous submission and/or duplicate publication. Prospective contributors to Atlantis commit themselves to the following when they submit a manuscript:
- That no concurrent consideration of the same, or almost identical, work by any other journal and/or publisher is taking place.
- That the potential contribution has not appeared previously, in any form whatsoever, in another journal, electronic format or as a chapter/section of a book.
Seeking permission for the use of copyright material is the responsibility of the author.