Literary Trauma: Sadism, Memory, and Sexual Violence in by Deborah M Horvitz

By Deborah M Horvitz

This ebook examines portrayals of political and mental trauma, quite sexual trauma, within the paintings of 7 American ladies writers. focusing on novels by way of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Pauline Hopkins, Gayl Jones, Leslie Marmon Silko, Dorothy Allison, Joyce Carol Oates, and Margaret Atwood, Horvitz investigates even if thoughts of violent and oppressive trauma may be preserved, even reworked into paintings, with no reproducing that violence. The publication features a wide selection of non-public and political traumas, together with household abuse, incest, rape, imprisonment, and slavery, and argues that an research of sadomasochistic violence is our greatest security opposed to cyclical, intergenerational violence, a very well timed and significant topic as we predict approximately the right way to cease "hate" crimes and other kinds of political and psychic oppression.

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Extra resources for Literary Trauma: Sadism, Memory, and Sexual Violence in American Women’s Fiction

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Within these “hysterical” texts, in which trauma is forcibly and violently enacted upon a female body, political or historical factors merge with personal and psychological ones to induce experiences so devastating that we wonder how, or if, they can be endured. 1 For Corregidora’s Ursa, whose mind and spirit reside within the sociopolitical institution of slavery, although slavery ended one hundred years earlier, “ordinary” daily life is traumatic. Bastard’s Ruth Anne, victimized by systematic sadism in the form of poverty, is physically and socially deteriorating from hunger, beatings, and humiliation because of her family’s “low” class status.

But Menardo’s fatal flaw is his inability to translate messages; in Gloria Anzaldúa’s words, he has no “awareness of the part of the psyche that . . communicates in images and symbols” (38). Unable to decipher the old man’s stories, he then refuses to heed the snake’s warning of death in his dreams. Betraying his history, Menardo loses access to the “ancestors’ spirits [which] were summoned by the stories” (A 316), and he is “lost” like the aimless Adam and Eve in his grandfather’s story. If the old man’s tale is cautionary, then so is the one Silko tells to punctuate the moment in Menardo’s childhood when he discovers that the taunts of “flat nose,” hurled at him by other children, stem from the fact that his grandfather is Indian.

However, despite the significance of Seese’s transformation, the rescue of white people is certainly not Almanac’s central worry. 5 The pleasure-pain nexus repeats intergenerationally in Almanac. “Violence begat violence, but if the Destroyers were not stopped, the human race was finished” (A 739) is an echoing and haunting trope throughout this text. Individual and organized Destroyers seek sexual pleasure through sadism. In so doing the wish to hurt, abuse or violate recruits the oppressor into objectifying victims.

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