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 Volume 17/1, includes forum "Narrative Selves"
 January 2019

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 June 2018

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 Quick Article Search

   Newest Articles

 Response Essay
 Monika Fludernik

 Experience, Affect, and Literary Lists
 Eva von Contzen

 Posthuman Narration as a Test Bed for Experientiality
 Marco Caracciolo

 The Curse of Realism
 Karin Kukkonen

 More than Minds
 Jonas Grethlein

 Toward the Non-Natural
 Maria Mäkelä

 Two Conceptions of Experientiality and Narrativity
 Dan Shen

 Against Nature
 Brian McHale

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Updated Up To 26/06/2018
Volume 2, Number 2 (June 2004) : 109-137
Turning Back
Retracing Twentieth-Century Trauma in Virginia Woolf, Martin Amis, and W. G. Sebald
Natania Rosenfeld
Rubric A: Topoi

The historical caesura of the Holocaust bisects the twentieth century, its horror effecting a kind of temporal doubling or fold in the psyches of survivors as well as a permanent damage on Enlightenment conceptions of the progressive march of time. The traumatic experience of a continual turning back inflects the twentieth-century novel and our readings of it, calling into question modernist tropes of redemption. This essay examines changes in the way that both the passage of time and the ghostly return of the dead are portrayed, first in a modern text, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, which deals with World War I, and then in two postmodern works both of which inscribe a vain dream of the rectification of Holocaust trauma: Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow and W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants. My emphasis is on trajectories of plot and memory, trajectories that trauma distorts and the artistic impulse inclines to even out (as in Amis’s trope of the story told backwards, with genocide undone). While modernist experimentalism cannot help indulging in redemptive fantasies, it also incorporates its own critique of this conservative longing.
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