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Palgrave Macmillan

Literary Aesthetics of Trauma

Virginia Woolf and Jeanette Winterson

ISBN 9781137311023
Publication Date April 2014
Formats Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) Hardcover 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Literary Aesthetics of Trauma: Virginia Woolf and Jeanette Winterson investigates a fundamental shift, from the 1920s to the present day, in the way that trauma is culturally perceived and aesthetically expressed. Modernism's emphasis on impersonality and narrative abstraction has been replaced by the contemporary trauma memoir and an ethical imperative to bear witness. This book diverges from the deconstructive trend in academic trauma studies that prioritizes a model of narrative rupture, whereby literary form replicates traumatic symptoms. Instead, it presents an object relations theory model, which emphasizes the importance of narrative 'containment' and 'working-through' of traumatic emotion by achieving at least some critical distance. From this perspective, it analyses modernism's formalist aesthetics, particularly as displayed in two of Woolf's most formally abstract novels. It contrasts this approach with Winterson's 'new baroque' aesthetics and the increasingly 'authentic' reappearance of the traumatic adoption story in her work.

Reina van der Wiel is Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck, University of London, UK and has also taught English Literature at Birkbeck and Middlesex University. She has published work in Women: A Cultural Review and Scenes of Intimacy: Writing, Reading and Theorizing Contemporary Literature, edited by Jennifer Cooke.

1. Introduction: Trauma, Psychoanalysis, Literary Form
2. Writing the Body: Trauma, Woolf, Winterson
3. Symbolization, Thinking and Working-Through: British Object Relations Theory
4. 'The Most Difficult Abstract Piece of Writing': 'Time Passes' as Container
5. 'Ideas of Feeling': Symbolic Transformation in Modernist Formalist Aesthetics
6. Woolf's Embodied Cognitive Aesthetics: The Waves
7. From Form to Feeling: Trauma and Affective Excess in Art and Lies
8. 'The Story of My Life': Winterson's Adoption, Art and Autobiography
9. Coda


'...this is a book of prodigious scholarship with a carefully considered, contemporary message.' - Dianne M. Hunter, Woolf Studies Annual
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