Literature, Trauma, and Healing: Refusing to Silence the Discourse

full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA -- Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, 2012

Session Description:

In 2000, Suzette Henke published Shattered Subjects: Trauma and Testimony in Women's Life-Writing, where her introduction explores trauma and healing, elaborating on what Henke coined as scriptotherapy, "the process of writing out and writing through traumatic experience in the mode of therapeutic reenactment" (xii). Focusing specifically on the ameliorative power of autobiography, which she believes "has always offered the tantalizing possibility of reinventing the self and reconstructing the subject" (xv), Henke's interdisciplinarity "may have struck a 1985 Modern Language Association audience as more psychoanalytic than literary, and even somewhat marginal to the field of critical theory" (xiii), a concern still lodged against approaches to literature and subjectivity.

Our panel seeks to explore theoretically-sound topics related to literature, trauma, and healing – topics that are all too often silenced, ignored in academia, giving space to a discourse that is commonly met with apprehension. Our aim extends the focus of trauma studies to encompass, recognize, and investigate roles of healing within literary criticism as well as within practices of reading, writing, research, and teaching. Linking theory and pedagogy, this panel intends to engage with possibilities and limitations of bringing healing to the forefront of trauma-related, academic conversations.

Some questions to consider may include the following: How does literature play roles in healing processes? How does reading affect, instigate, or hinder one's healing? What pedagogical strategies build skills that can turn readers of literature toward self-critique, increasing self-awareness and inculcating self-worth? What current scholarship related to healing through/with literature exists, and what are the pedagogical implications involved? What are some roadblocks, challenges when it comes to highlighting healing? How and why is this very topic being silenced today?

Papers may offer theoretical insights or may focus on pedagogical aspects. We encourage interdisciplinary connections and explorations of, references to specific texts, theories, and/or pedagogical philosophies.

Please send 250-500 word abstracts and one-page CV (as well as any questions) to Rachel N. Spear (University of North Carolina at Wilmington) and Ami Blue (Michigan State University) to the following email address: Materials should be submitted as attachments by September 30, 2011 with your subject line as "2012 NeMLA Abstract" and should include the following information: name, affiliation, email address, postal address, telephone number, one-page CV, and A/V requirements (if any, note A/V has $10 handling fee to be paid with registration).

Conference Information:

43nd Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
March 15-18, 2012
Rochester, New York – Hyatt Rochester
Host Institution: St. John Fisher College
Keynote speaker: Jennifer Egan, 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner, A Visit from the Goon Squad

The 43rd annual convention will be held March 15-18th in Rochester, New York at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown, located minutes away from convenient air, bus, and train transportation options for attendees. St. John Fisher College will serve as the host college, and the diverse array of area institutions are coordinating with conference organizers to sponsor various activities, such as celebrated keynote speakers, local events, and fiction readings.

Building upon the excellence of past NeMLA conferences, the association continues to grow as a vibrant community of scholars, thanks to the wide array of intellectual and cultural opportunities at every venue. Compact yet diverse, Rochester also boasts important historical connections; it is the site of the home, publication operations, and orations of Frederick Douglass, where he edited the North Star, as well as his eponymous periodical, and delivered the speech, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?". Visitors can explore the houses of abolitionist, suffragette, and reformer Susan B. Anthony and the inventor of devices popularizing photography, George Eastman, as well as shopping and eateries; attendees will also be within reach of the beautiful Finger Lakes region, known for its local wineries.

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.