- Editor's Introduction
Literature and trauma studies have now reached the moment when the main theoretical preoccupations and questions have moved beyond the initial period of internal contestation and are deploying into wider international, social, and geopolitical literary contexts. Debates related to the main conceptual and historical perspectives remain, of course, and these are in many respects integral to the subject and so will never be fully settled. Nonetheless, the theoretical assumptions as well as the principal ethical and political perspectives and concerns of literature and trauma studies have become a necessary strand in a wide range of critical reexaminations and explorations of traumatic and catastrophic events in southern, central, and northern Africa as well as the near, middle, and far East. The rise of these wider national and geopolitical contexts for literature and trauma studies at this juncture represents a twofold historical and cultural development.
In the first instance, it foregrounds the fact that literature and trauma study is and must be, without reservations, international in its scope, conceptualizations, and concerns. The circumstances of modern catastrophe and trauma are not constrained within nation-state boundaries and are endured by peoples, cultures, and societies, not "states" as such. It is therefore of an internal necessity that literature and trauma study would rapidly move outward to countersign this inevitable reality. An "international" perspective is easy enough to claim but more difficult to enact. This issue of Journal of Literature and Trauma Studies contributes to this enactment. To be sure, the way by which the "West," both geopolitically and in traditional literary scholarship, has tended to "place" and situate North African, [End Page vii] "Levant," and Arab literatures is put into question here. Yet this questioning is not the only theoretical concern as such; the other concern for the articles here and for this issue is to enforce and open one more path of critical and literary dialogue that is not foreclosed and foreshortened by habitual cultural and geopolitical presuppositions.
Concomitantly, the theoretical and ethical bases of literature and trauma study require that the international contexts for the study of literature, human catastrophe, and trauma are articulated and understood principally from within the sites in which they occur, with due recognition and insight that these sites and situations are not merely "subjects" of "study" or "additions" of interest for the "West." In other words, the further necessary historical development is that the international and global situations and enactments of literature and trauma study will inevitably find a path and means of speaking of these situations and crises, which emerges from within an awareness of overlapping but nonetheless essential human concerns. The articles here—focusing on the experience and manifestations of trauma in North African, Armenian, and Arab literatures—therefore seek to articulate the relationships of trauma, suffering, and literature in critical and hermeneutic modes that are rooted in the contexts themselves.
One strand that stands out in all the articles here is a concern with the "history" of suffering and the possible narration, poetic or prosaic, of the past and the struggle that must occur for the essential nature and significance of that suffering to emerge into clear and full historical recognition. This issue attempts to contribute to this necessity, incorporating articles that cover notions as diverse as the concept of "Levantine literature" and the status of the "voice" in a dialogue of Jewish and Arab literatures, the public role of the poet in relation to human rights and illegal incarceration, the gendering of the Algerian national liberation struggle, and the conceptual and literary significance of the attempted Armenian genocide. All these articles attest to a strong sense of an expanding perspective and the renewing force of literature and trauma studies as it establishes its conceptual vigor and literary and intellectual significance. [End Page viii]