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Title: Narrating trauma : Judith Butler on narrative coherence and the politics of self-narration
Authors: Borg, Kurt
Keywords: Butler, Judith, 1956- -- Criticism and interpretation
Cohesion (Linguistics)
Emotions (Philosophy)
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Citation: Borg, K. (2018). Narrating trauma : Judith Butler on narrative coherence and the politics of self-narration. Life Writing, 15(3), 447-465.
Abstract: Narrative coherence is considered as paramount within various dominant discourses, and is seen as empowering traumatised individuals by giving them more control over their lives. However, when subjected to closer scrutiny, the possibility of narrative coherence in life writing becomes open to critique on multiple levels. The article turns to the work of Judith Butler to show how her account of vulnerable subjectivity and relationality problematises the possibility of the subject’s giving a coherent narrative account of itself. Butler’s ideas can be seen as incompatible with or unable to explain the need for narrative coherence expressed by various trauma survivors. Rather than undermine any notion of narrative coherence, this article argues that Butler’s account of self-narration challenges the over-emphasis placed on a conception of self-narration based on mastery, unity and coherence. The article turns to the narratives of sexual trauma by Alice Sebold and Susan Brison to show how narrative coherence functions in legal and political contexts of testifying as a possibly hegemonic norm that circumscribes how trauma is narrated by facilitating certain forms of self-narration while silencing other forms of narrating oneself. The article concludes by arguing that a reading of Butler’s work on self-narration in relation to insights derived from trauma theory on the difficulties of narrating life after trauma enables a critical ethico-political analysis of hegemonic norms and practices that are currently operating on the activity of traumatic life writing.
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