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Contemporary American Trauma Narratives$
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Alan Gibbs

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748641147

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641147.001.0001

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Twentieth-Century Trauma Narratives: Some Paradigmatic Texts

Twentieth-Century Trauma Narratives: Some Paradigmatic Texts

(p.45) Chapter 1 Twentieth-Century Trauma Narratives: Some Paradigmatic Texts
Contemporary American Trauma Narratives

Alan Gibbs

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter offers a brief sketch of a selection of twentieth-century precursor or foundational trauma texts, including J. D. Salinger’s ‘For Esmé – with Love and Squalor’, Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, E. L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel and some of Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam narratives. The chapter analyses some of the key paradigms that these trauma texts helped to construct, including extreme chronological and narrating fragmentation, formal employment of repetition, the radical decentring of narrating subjectivity, and the belated revelations of traumatic incidents. A contrast is drawn in this chapter between the originally shocking effects of these deliberately disjointed narratives, and trauma texts from later in the century that employ similar, but by now derivative, representational practices.

Keywords:   Salinger, Heller, Morrison, Vonnegut, O’Brien, Doctorow, fragmentation, repetition, belatedness

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