Surviving survival : trauma, testimony and text in slavery and Holocaust fictional narratives / by Amy C. Zumfelde Pagano.
This dissertation investigates the ways in which fictional narratives have transformed how readers understand the horrific events of African-American slavery and the Holocaust by consciously dramatizing the lacunae inherent in all survivor testimony. When released from the limited focus of straight-forward factual reportage, readers witness for themselves the unfolding of the process of delivering and receiving testimony, which mimics the fragmentation and disarray that trauma's victims experience.Engaging in comparative analysis of literary fiction representing the Holocaust as well as slave suffering and survival, my aim is not historical: to show how these traumatic epochs themselves are recorded in testimony; and, more specifically, how events from both tragedies are portrayed in literature. The particulars of these two historical catastrophes are not comparable in and of themselves; what unifies the literature both have inspired is the attempt to represent profound, world-un-making experiences of suffering. Representation of the unspeakable and unknowable at the heart of the traumatic experience complicates the writer's ability to communicate his or her subject authentically.Informed by psychoanalytic research on trauma and literature and theories of narrative, each chapter analyzes a pairing of fictions that question how to express the inexpressible; these texts examine whether the successful reception of that message by another is as important as the act of creation itself. Sherley Anne Williams' Dessa Rose and Art Spiegelman's Maus I, II engage in metafictional projects that probe the act of giving and receiving testimony, demonstrating the impact of this process on survivor, interviewer and indeed the very content of the exchange itself. Cynthia Ozick's "The Shawl" and "Rosa" and Toni Morrison's Beloved, explore how the survivor copes with the legacy of the trauma and with the challenges at stake in the act of surviving survival. Ilse Aichinger's Die gröβere Hoffnung and Charles Johnson's Middle Passage each examine literary attempts to translate the traumatic event into a transmutable text and question whether such narratives actually can convey the trauma to their readers.
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