Witnessing and the renegotiation of traumatic memory in contemporary Italian literature
AffiliationSchool of Languages and Linguistics
Document TypePhD thesis
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© 2018 Dr. Joshua Carter
This thesis is the first to draw on witnessing theories explore the renegotiation of traumatic memory in a representative corpus of recent Italian trauma novels. The novels I have selected for this study are Regina di fiori e di perle (2007) by Gabriella Ghermandi, Oltre Babilonia (2008) by Igiaba Scego, and Timira: romanzo meticcio (2012) by Antar Mohamed and Wu Ming 2. These works variously narrate the intergenerational traumas caused by Italian colonisation, dictatorship, and civil war in Somalia and Ethiopia. Intergenerational trauma denotes a collective emotional and psychological injury that goes unresolved across multiple generations. In particular, these works more than any other Italian novels expose readers to the traumatic events of colonialism, dictatorship, and civil war, and the way these events are expressed through symptoms of unresolved trauma. As indicated in the trauma novels considered in this project, the victims of Italian colonialism do not have the opportunity to heal, and for this reason they pass the symptoms of their trauma on to successive generations. In their role as either trauma victims or empathetic listeners, characters resort to witnessing. In all three trauma novels characters turn to witnessing either as trauma victims or as empathetic listeners. Witnessing refers to Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub’s work on trauma, according to which a trauma victim requires the presence of an empathetic listener to recall and narrate their trauma.
Keywordscontemporary Italian literature; postcolonialism; migrant writing; trauma; memory studies; witnessing
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