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The indivisibility of change: the challenge of trauma to the genre of coming-of-age narratives


Frey Büchel, Nicole (2018). The indivisibility of change: the challenge of trauma to the genre of coming-of-age narratives. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 5(1):23-34.

Abstract

Evie Wyld’s novel All the Birds, Singing (2013) draws attention to the interrelation of personal history, trauma narratives, and coming-of-age stories. I will analyze Wyld’s novel with reference to two bodies of theory: Bergson’s model of the “indivisibility of change” (p. 263), which re-conceptualizes the past as part of a “perpetual present” (p. 262), and Pederson’s revised literary theory of trauma, which deviates from crucial tenets of traditional literary trauma studies. Due to the novel’s unconventional structure of a backward-moving narrative strand interlocked with a forward-moving one, the crisis the narrator experienced in adolescence moves centre stage, which shows that, in the case of trauma, coming-of-age requires a continual negotiating of this experience. The novel challenges “strategically grim” coming-of-age narratives which represent trauma merely “as part of a narrative of the young protagonist’s redemption or maturation,” so that “resolution occurs as a matter of narrative convention […]” (Gilmore and Marshall, p. 23). All the Birds, Singing demonstrates that the painstaking processing of a painful personal history in narrative by establishing a dialogue of voices – and thus of selves –is an essential prerequisite for maturation. The genre of coming-of-age narratives, beside including novels which present a crisis merely as a necessary step on the way to adult life, thus also needs to incorporate texts documenting the persistence of trauma in a protagonist’s life.

Abstract

Evie Wyld’s novel All the Birds, Singing (2013) draws attention to the interrelation of personal history, trauma narratives, and coming-of-age stories. I will analyze Wyld’s novel with reference to two bodies of theory: Bergson’s model of the “indivisibility of change” (p. 263), which re-conceptualizes the past as part of a “perpetual present” (p. 262), and Pederson’s revised literary theory of trauma, which deviates from crucial tenets of traditional literary trauma studies. Due to the novel’s unconventional structure of a backward-moving narrative strand interlocked with a forward-moving one, the crisis the narrator experienced in adolescence moves centre stage, which shows that, in the case of trauma, coming-of-age requires a continual negotiating of this experience. The novel challenges “strategically grim” coming-of-age narratives which represent trauma merely “as part of a narrative of the young protagonist’s redemption or maturation,” so that “resolution occurs as a matter of narrative convention […]” (Gilmore and Marshall, p. 23). All the Birds, Singing demonstrates that the painstaking processing of a painful personal history in narrative by establishing a dialogue of voices – and thus of selves –is an essential prerequisite for maturation. The genre of coming-of-age narratives, beside including novels which present a crisis merely as a necessary step on the way to adult life, thus also needs to incorporate texts documenting the persistence of trauma in a protagonist’s life.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Uncontrolled Keywords:coming-of-age narrative, genre, trauma, literary trauma theory
Language:English
Date:2018
Deposited On:12 Jun 2018 10:00
Last Modified:22 Jun 2018 10:35
Publisher:IAFOR Publications
ISSN:2187-0616
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.5.1.02
Related URLs:http://ijah.iafor.org (Publisher)

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