Echoes of silence: writing into reverberations of trauma
Alexander, Dagmar Johanna
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This thesis argues for performative ways to write trauma, ghosts and silence against the particularities of German post-war experiences. It begins with the re-discovery of a photographic image that provides a starting point. I unfold linguistically uncalibrated yet embodied knowledge into insecure or uncertain registers of traumatic intergenerational reverberations. Drawing on psychoanalytic theory of trauma, I chart a trajectory from individuated self towards one pledged on intersubjective conditions for an iteratively-emergent subjectivity. Trauma framed in terms of interrelational silence is woven into the material fixicity of the image, with its fleetingly evoked and fragmented slivers of memory. Positioned on the cusp of an inquiry that troubles the coherence of a subject-who-knows, I argue for an eruptive heterogeneity that speaks creatively to possible ways of re-presenting the significance and specificity of familial and national silence in the aftermath of an abject war. The discreetness of trauma, ghosts and silence is reconfigured in terms of an in-betweenness of generational reverberations; these echoes form the layers into and against which I write silenced, repressed and marginalized voices, voices shaped predominately by absence from dominant discourses. The transgressive nature of writing against the grain, of writing against the primacy of certainty is developed further through the chapters, mapping a complex methodological and theoretical possibility. I trouble notions of ‘data’ in light of contestations that favour ambiguous possibilities pertaining to hauntings and ghosts, aware of the paradoxical nature of linearly constructed arguments in support of fragmentary and fragmented knowledge claims. The complexities are further accentuated through texts written in different genres, which seek to mirror context and emergent content. The thesis builds into an enmeshment of reverberations within which space is given over to Other, drawing fictitious and fictionalized voices into contestations around narrativization and finitude.