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

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NeMLA -- Northeast Modern Language Association Conference, 2012

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 and Ami Blue ( by September 30th with your subject line as "2012 NeMLA Abstract." Submissions should include the following information: name, affiliation, email, postal address, telephone number, one-page CV, and A/V requirements (if any, note A/V has $10 handling fee).

The complete Call for Papers for the 2012 Convention is posted at

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