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The Nature of Trauma in American Novels

Michelle Balaev

Publication Year: 2012

In The Nature of Trauma in the American Novel, Michelle Balaev undertakes an ambitious rethinking of the foundations, implementations, and new possibilities of literary trauma theory.

Published by: Northwestern University Press

Series: NUP

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix-x

Many people have been important to my ideas on this topic and have generously provided feedback and support. I benefited from thoughtful feedback by Mary Wood, who provided crucial critiques of the manuscript in its early stages. Scott Slovic has provided significant encouragement and a valuable dialogue...

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pp. xi-xix

This book examines literary trauma theory from its foundations to its implementations and new possibilities. What began as a concern with the limited potential that trauma theory seemed to offer literary scholarship soon turned into excitement with the discovery of its many formulations and...

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One: Trauma Theory and Its Discontents: The Potentials of Pluralism

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pp. 3-40

The growing interest in the topic of trauma within literary criticism began in the 1990s. Yet, since Kali Tal’s Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma (1996) and Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience (1996), most analyses regularly employ a narrow definition of trauma culled from only one among...

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Two: The Role of Place in Remembering: Lan Cao’s Monkey Bridge

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pp. 41-54

In Lan Cao’s novel Monkey Bridge (1997), trauma is a constellation of individual and social forces that convene at a local landscape to generate both the meaning of the experience and the texture of its remembrance. Traumatic experience is situated within the contexts of immigration and social assimilation, creating...

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Three: The Traumatized Protagonist and Mythic Landscapes: Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony

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pp. 55-68

Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony (1977) follows the life of Tayo, a mixed-race American Indian who transitions from being a traumatized soldier to a respected storyteller in his Laguna Pueblo community. The protagonist’s suffering is portrayed as a result of numerous events, including his...

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Four: Wilderness, Loss, and Cultural Contexts in Edward Abbey’s Black Sun

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pp. 69-89

Edward Abbey’s novel Black Sun (1971) takes place in the American Southwest high desert region where the protagonist experiences and remembers trauma, demonstrating that the reframing of subjectivity occurs through an exploration of the self in relation to the process of remembering and...

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Five: Neocolonialism and Polluted Places in Robert Barclay’s Melal

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pp. 91-113

Robert Barclay’s Melal: A Novel of the Pacific (2002) explores the traumatic displacement and dispossession of land and community as the result of colonial and imperial pursuits. The historical novel draws a portrait of a neocolonized people in the 1980s Marshall Islands who are living with the...

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pp. 115-121

My aim in this book has been to widen the interpretive possibilities of literary trauma theory by introducing more models and approaches. However, I do not wish to argue that there is only one alternative theory that acts antithetically to the traditional model. Instead, I have suggested that another...


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pp. 123-130

Works Cited

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pp. 131-138


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pp. 139-141

E-ISBN-13: 9780810166059
Print-ISBN-13: 9780810128200

Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Series Title: NUP