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Traumatic Possessions

The Body and Memory in African American Women's Writing and Performance

Jennifer L. Griffiths

Publication Year: 2009

Focusing specifically and exclusively on the relation of trauma to race, this book distinguishes itself from previous studies of the literatures of trauma. Jennifer Griffiths examines the influence of racism on the creation and reception of trauma survivors' narrative testimony in selected works by African American writers and playwrights.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Title of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

While working on this manuscript, I attended a conference titled “Psychological Trauma: Attachment, Neuroscience, and Body Experience,” hosted by Bessel van der Kolk’s Boston-based Trauma Center. As I sat in the crowded auditorium, I engaged in conversation with the participants around me, most of whom spent their working days as social workers, ...

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pp. ix-x

I started thinking more concretely about this acknowledgments section as the 2:34 p.m. train left Grand Central one Tuesday afternoon in late January ‘09. The early research for this study occurred during another period of Metro North commuting when I attended the CUNY Graduate Center as a doctoral candidate in English. I begin, then, by thanking ...

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pp. 1-13

In Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, Dori Laub describes a videotaped archive of a Holocaust survivor recounting a Jewish rebellion at Auschwitz. “She was,” Laub writes, “relating her memories as an eyewitness of the Auschwitz uprising; a sudden intensity, passion and color were infused into the narrative. She ...

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Chapter 1. “The Quick Gasp of Sympathy”: Trauma and Interracial Witnessing in Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose

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pp. 14-33

“Memory stopped” for Dessa, the protagonist of Sherley Anne Williams’s Dessa Rose, which opens with an imprisoned female slave recounting in “halting speech and hesitant manner” her experience in a recent slave rebellion.1 Ashraf Rushdy describes the novel as a neoslave narrative, “a particular form of the contemporary narrativity of slavery” influenced ...

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Chapter 2. Betrayal Trauma and the Test of Complicity in Suzan-Lori Parks’s Venus

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pp. 34-45

A U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services campaign pamphlet, “Look beneath the Surface,” asks health-care providers, “Can you recognize victims of human trafficking among the people you help every day?”1 The pamphlet then states, “Most victims do not see themselves as victims and do not realize what is being done to them is wrong,” a ...

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Chapter 3. Between Women: Trauma, Witnessing, and the Legacy of Interracial Rape in Robbie McCauley’s Sally’s Rape

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pp. 46-67

At one critical moment in Robbie McCauley’s play Sally’s Rape, the African American McCauley and her white co-performer Jeannie Hutchins engage in a revealing exchange about history, trauma, and denial: ...

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Chapter 4. Uncanny Spaces: Trauma, Cultural Memory, and Female Body in Gayl Jones’s Corregidora

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pp. 68-88

In “Truth and Testimony: The Process and the Struggle,” Dori Laub describes his experience with the Holocaust-survivor testimony on which he bases his theories about witnessing and recovery: “survivors did not only need to survive so that they could tell their stories; they also needed to tell their stories in order to survive. There is, in each survivor, an im-...

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Chapter 5. “I Have Never Seen a Movie Like That”: Traumatic Memory and the “Acceleration of History” in Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992

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pp. 89-110

The PBS production of Anna Deavere Smith’s play Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 opens with the line quoted in the epigraph, which evokes the tension between Nora’s observation on media-facilitated public memory and a belated, fractured post-traumatic response that, as Smith’s interviewed subject expresses above, exceeds the representational boundaries. ...


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pp. 111-120


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pp. 121-130


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pp. 131-134

E-ISBN-13: 9780813928951
E-ISBN-10: 0813928958
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813928838
Print-ISBN-10: 0813928834

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2009