Post-traumatic memory projects: autobiographical fiction and counter-monuments
(2013) Textual Practice, Published online Dec 2013
In our age the categories of memory, monumentality, and truth telling are all far from stable. In the highly charged world of what Foucault termed ‘parrhesia’ – a mode of free speech ‘linked to courage in the face of danger’ – testimony can challenge a state’s version of events and autobiographical fictions offer contexts through which trauma might be understood. In this essay, I argue that this danger and instability has come to supersaturate concrete and textual representations of traumatic experience, and also to link the discourses with which these different renderings are debated. Such works function analogously as what Pierre Nora termed ‘lieux dé memoire’ that generate forms knowledge about the relations between truth, memory and memorial. As Leigh Gilmore puts it, they have the ‘potential to reorganize what justice and knowledge look like in the context of trauma’. The seemingly distinct memory projects manifested in, for example, war memorials, autobiographical literature, and legal testimony have, I suggest, developed against and alongside a common set of problematic conceptual, linguistic and socio/political principles. Each of these projects similarly map out and produce idiosyncratic representations of the nature of these boundaries, the genre-blurring and interdisciplinary character of which my own argument echoes. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.
autobiographical fiction; culture and mourning; Life writing; psychology of writing; trauma fiction