Traumatic Possessions: The Body and Memory in African American Women's Writing and Performance (American Literatures Initiative)

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9780813928845: Traumatic Possessions: The Body and Memory in African American Women's Writing and Performance (American Literatures Initiative)

Studies of traumatic stress have explored the challenges to memory as a result of extreme experience, particularly in relation to the ways in which trauma resonates within the survivor’s body and the difficulties survivors face when trying to incorporate their experience into meaningful narratives. Jennifer Griffiths examines the attempts of several African American writers and playwrights to explore ruptures in memory after a traumatic experience and to develop creative strategies for understanding the inscription of trauma on the body in a racialized cultural context.

In the literary and performance texts examined here, Griffiths shows how the self is reconstituted through testimony―through the attempt to put into language and public statement the struggle of survivors to negotiate the limits placed on their bodies and to speak controversial truths. Dessa in her jail cell, Venus in the courtroom, Sally on the auction block, Ursa in her own family history, and Rodney King in the video frame―each character in these texts by Sherley Anne Williams, Suzan-Lori Parks, Robbie McCauley, Gayl Jones, and Anna Deavere Smith gives voice not only to the limits of language in representing traumatic experience but also to the necessity of testimony as the public enactment of memory and bodily witness.

In focusing specifically and exclusively on the relation of trauma to race and on the influence of racism on the creation and reception of narrative testimony, this book distinguishes itself from previous studies of the literatures of trauma.

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About the Author:

Jennifer L. Griffiths is Associate Professor of English at the New York Institute of Technology, Manhattan Campus.

Review:

"Traumatic Possessions opens up important new possibilities for investigating trauma, the human body, and memory." --Nina Mikkelsen, MELUS (Winter 2010)

In this fascinating new work, Griffiths . . . expertly explore[s] the legacy of race and gender related trauma and its effect on memory, testimony, complicity, and healing.
--Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA

[T]he value of this text extends beyond the study of African American literature and performance pieces, and beyond trauma studies to include significant concerns of feminist scholarship. --RosaMaria Chacon, Women's Studies (fall 2010)

An innovative and compelling work . . . Traumatic Possessions is a very welcome addition to contemporary trauma and race studies. . . . Griffiths is a trustworthy guide as she offers critical and public testimony by illuminating the haunting legacy of body matters in race-related traumas.-- J. Brooks Bouson, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

"Traumatic Possessions is a groundbreaking contribution to the various critical fields it inhabits, including, but not limited to, African American literary studies and criticism, performance and trauma studies, and feminist literature." --Sandra C. Duvivier, The Journal of African American History

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