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Humanities 2017, 6(4), 94; https://doi.org/10.3390/h6040094

Triangulating Trauma: Constellations of Memory, Representation, and Distortion in Elie Wiesel, Wolfgang Borchert, and W.G. Sebald

German, Davis campus, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Received: 16 October 2017 / Revised: 18 November 2017 / Accepted: 19 November 2017 / Published: 24 November 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Wounded: Studies in Literary and Cinematic Trauma)
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Abstract

Even today, trauma theory remains indebted to Sigmund Freud’s notion of belatedness: a traumatic event is not fully experienced at the time of occurrence, due to its suddenness and the lack of preparedness on the part of the human subject. In Traumatic Realism (2000), Michael Rothberg invokes the Benjaminian notion of the constellation of representation to address the shortcomings of any singular mode of trauma portrayal. Rothberg likens the realist, modernist, and postmodernist literary modes to the points of view of the survivor, the bystander, and the latecomer, respectively. I combine Rothberg’s typology with insights from trauma theory to analyze Elie Wiesel’s Night, Wolfgang Borchert’s The Man Outside, and W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants—three texts that represent Rothberg’s literary modes while at the same time problematizing genre. Dori Laub argues that distorted memory and untold stories are endemic to Holocaust representation. W.G. Sebald inscribes this distortion into his narratives, calling attention to but also repeating its effects. I argue that a perspective beginning with (but not limited to) a combined reading of these three texts yields a more complete understanding of trauma and the Holocaust than can be offered by any singular genre—even archives of documented testimonies, which, despite their necessary role, are unavoidably fraught with a problematics of memory itself. View Full-Text
Keywords: Holocaust; representation; postmodernism; collective memory; repression; hypermnesia; testimony; ghosts; realism Holocaust; representation; postmodernism; collective memory; repression; hypermnesia; testimony; ghosts; realism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Mahan, W. Triangulating Trauma: Constellations of Memory, Representation, and Distortion in Elie Wiesel, Wolfgang Borchert, and W.G. Sebald. Humanities 2017, 6, 94.

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