“You are you and he is he” : spaces and alterations of subjectivity in representations of trauma.
Lim, Yan Wen.
Date of Issue2009
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This essay builds on and reverses Cathy Caruth’s point of needing to re-examine trauma in literature through a close analysis of Gao Xingjian’s One Man’s Bible and Ma Jian’s Beijing Coma. This need to re-examine trauma in fiction arises as a result of continued effort and attempt to overcome the problem of representation of trauma. By appropriating Western concepts of trauma onto these two translated texts, an attempt is made at considering how trauma, arguably a universal language, may be represented in a more culturally-specific context. Distances created within the texts are a parallel to the concept of trauma: in its perpetual disrupting of the narrative, the text becomes unstable and that instability mirrors trauma, which is sometimes viewed as repeated disruptions of familiarity by terror from some past incomprehensible rupture in time. If trauma is a rupture in time and space, then this temporal and spatial incongruity would parallel a disintegration of identity, which then leads to an altered subjectivity in the narrative. This modification of subjectivity is important because it challenges the thin line between the personal and the political or public. The reconfiguration of subjectivity is explored by analyzing the different ways in which psychological and physical aftermath of traumatic experiences are manifested. These representations can be linked with the difficulty of language in fully and directly representing trauma. This conceptualization suggests that when traumatic events occur, immediate comprehension is usually difficult to arrive at, because language fails to organize and define the event, thus destroying a symbolic world that one understands, and the trauma comes about through this conceptual inability to comprehend.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University