CFP: [American] The Writing Cure: Scripting the Self in Trauma Memoir (NeMLA 2009)

full name / name of organization: 
Paul Rosa
contact email: 

Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA) Convention
Feb. 26-March 1, 2009
Boston, Massachusetts

The Writing Cure: Scripting the Self in Trauma Memoir

This panel seeks papers that consider how post-structuralist notions of a
de-centered self intersect with the “re-centering” psychotherapeutic work
of the trauma memoirs so popular today.

A trauma narrative is often produced during and after a period of therapy,
and as such is influenced by psychiatric practice. Indeed, crafting a
narrative is psychology’s primary method of treating trauma. By rewriting
his or her life, the writer claims the traumatic experience as his or her
own, repairs the self that has been shattered, and finds ways to reconnect
with a world that has proven untrustworthy. This therapy has resulted in
the very real alleviation of symptoms and mitigation of pain, enabling
trauma victims to find a measure of peace and to successfully function in

However, the literary studies is particularly sensitive to the fact that
producing narrative is an immensely complex undertaking, and that
narratization which makes claims of literal truth is particularly vexed.
Recent theorizing about autobiographical writing, for instance, focuses on
the ways lives are modified when put into textual form. A memoir’s
seemingly transparent rendering of experience becomes cloudy when looked at
in the context of the cultural and discursive influences on constructing a
life’s story.

Of interest are papers that look at particular trauma memoirs, that
consider the genre’s vogue, that look at the publishing industry, or that
look at the theoretical and therapeutic issues in psychology and writing.

Papers might explore, but are not limited to, the following issues:

-What narrative strategies has a particular writer employed or created in
order to tell his or her story?

-What definitions of “truth” might apply to these narratives?

-How do authors negotiate the difficulty of representing a trauma, which by
definition resists containment within language?

-What ideological functions do such narratives perform for the writer, or
for the multiple audiences that read them?

Please send a 1-2 page abstract and a brief bio or CV with your affiliation
and electronic and postal contact information to Please
also let me know if you have any AV needs.

Deadline: September 15, 2008.

Consult the NeMLA web site ( for more information about the
conference and the organization.

Panelists may present only one paper at the convention, though they may
submit abstracts for consideration to more than one panel.

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Received on Thu Jul 10 2008 - 16:50:15 EDT