Annual Graduate Conference 2019: Silences in Literary Trauma Studies: A Reconsideration

deadline for submissions: 
February 8, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Department of Comparative Literature, State University of New York, Buffalo.
contact email: 

 Annual Graduate Conference 2019, hosted by the Department of Comparative Literature, State University of New York, Buffalo, 5th April 2019


 Silences in Literary Trauma Studies: A Reconsideration

J.M. Coetzee’s Foe, re-narrates Daniel DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe through the perspective of Susan Barton, a woman shipwrecked on Crusoe’s island, somewhere in the Atlantic ocean. The novel documents Barton’s time on the island, as well as her return to England, and efforts at getting her story published. However, beyond Barton and Crusoe there is the sometimes forgotten character of Friday, whose absent narrative is implied by his own missing tongue. Barton resists the temptation to fill this absence, what she terms the “hole in the narrative,” with figures of literary imagination such as “cannibals and pirates,” preferring instead to maintain Friday’s absent narrative; and Crusoe, for his part, rejects the value of keeping any record of the years of his shipwreck. Collectively, Friday’s inability to narrate, Barton’s narrative of absence, and Crusoe’s refusal to narrate represent contesting possibilities for the narrativizing of trauma.   

In the history of trauma literary studies, this contest often privileges a singularity of silence, namely the inability to narrate trauma, over other modes of representation and narration. More precisely, silence can be read as the central topos through which modern psychological trauma has been understood, through to the emergence of the field of literary trauma studies as a response to the Holocaust. However, this approach to trauma, and its grounding in the Holocaust, has left unexamined a second, no less traumatic, silence that Coetzee’s Foe addresses, by underlining its absence in the canon. This second silence (or more accurately silences) compounds the singular absent, silence of Holocaust testimonies, and appears in the silent voices of the post-colonial subjects, the voices of pre-twentieth century trauma victims, and the voices of those whose literatures continue to occupy a marginal, if not entirely absent position in discussions of trauma. This conference welcomes papers that address the singular silence that has formed the core of literary trauma theory, as well as work that explores the second silence(s) described above.

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

Silence and Speech

Postcolonial Trauma

Holocaust and Postcolonial Literature

Holocaust Representation

Narrativizing Trauma

Trauma and Testimony

The Crisis of Witnessing

The Limits of Representation

Psychoanalysis and Trauma

Intergenerational Trauma

We welcome you to participate in our Annual Graduate Conference hosted by the Department of Comparative Literature, State University of New York, Buffalo (5th April 2019). To read a paper at this conference, please email a 250-350 word abstract and a 100-word bio to silences2019@gmail.com by 8th February 2019. For further details you may visit the conference website: silencesconference2019.wordpress.com. For any further questions or concerns you may contact the conference organizers: 

Josh Dawson
jdawson3@buffalo.edu

PhD Candidate
642 Clemens Hall
Department of Comparative Literature
State University of New York
Buffalo, NY 14260-4610

Rachit Anand 

rachitan@buffalo.edu

PhD Scholar
Department of Comparative Literature
Clemens Hall 648
Department of Comparative Literature
State University of New York
Buffalo, NY 14260-4610