Resituations : repetition, nationalism, and the traumas of modernity in the writing of Aharon Appelfeld and Édouard Glissant / by Lincoln Shlensky
Includes bibliographical references (p. 383-398)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
This dissertation examines the consequences of the (post)colonial experience in the Caribbean and nationhood in Israel as represented in the contemporary fiction and essays of Édouard Glissant and Aharon Appelfeld. The works of both Glissant and Appelfeld, I argue, represent a challenge to collective representational codes that achieved dominance within their respective societies.For Appelfeld, who as an adolescent survived the Jewish genocide in Europe and arrived in Palestine just prior to the establishment of the Israeli state, and for Glissant, who grew up in colonial Martinique of the 1930s–40s, the idealistic collective projects envisioned by an earlier generation, and the narratives or “grands récits” (Lyotard) that sustain those projects, proved to be insufficient for contending with the fractured epistemologies and social disintegration associated with historical trauma. Both writers recognize, however, that it is not traumatic events themselves that are rendered “unspeakable” within collective discourse. It is the ongoing social conflicts generated by those events, rather, that collective narratives tend to suppress.I contend that the figure of repetition is pivotally significant in the writings of Appelfeld and Glissant because, as a literary analogue of traumatic symptoms, its formal disruption of narrative linearity signals the persistence in discourse of latent social conflicts and marginal identity formations. At once a leit-motif and a formal device, repetition in these authors' works sometimes establishes and even intensifies a master thematic or structural pattern of official history. At other times, however, repetition's estranging and displacing effects suggest new formal and political possibilities that may emerge at the outer limits of dominant narratives.In an effort to bridge philosophical as well as disciplinary boundaries, my dissertation brings together postcolonial critics such as Frantz Fanon and Homi Bhabha, psychoanalytically informed theorists of trauma such as Freud and Cathy Caruth, and discourse analysts such as Judith Butler. I show that the discursive intersections of postcolonial, trauma, and Jewish studies expose critical blind spots within each field. By bringing these fields and authors together, however, I make the case for a comparative study that amplifies the surprising contiguities among disparate theories, texts, contexts and those who write (within) them.
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