Smolny Beyond Borders

A Liberal Arts Initiative

On Trauma and Trauma Literature

Trauma Studies in recent decades form a special lens that allows us to consider literature as a space for the formation of the language of trauma. Russian literature of the late 20th and early 21st centuries becomes a space of reflection both on historical and sociocultural catastrophes, and on personal trauma. In this lens the text is not only a mode of representation, but also a kind of ‘site of trauma’, an attempt to articulate unrepresentable experience. These transformations are obviously reflected in the narrative structure. In recent research, the narrative has been reconceptualized not as a type of discourse consisting of a set of narrative units, but as a way of experienсing life events. Narratives of trauma in fictional discourse become a particular way of processing and framing experience in language, and our main task in the course will be to explore the ways this happens. The aim of the course “Trauma Narratives in Contemporary Russian Literature” will be to study contemporary Russian literature not only as a collection of texts united by a common language, but also as a “laboratory” for the development of a particular way of narrating traumatic experience, often avoiding representation.
For inspiration, you might look at the course cover: the work of Rosa Menkman, a defragmented self-portrait illustrating the traumatic disintegration of image and narrative.
My earlier article on autoreflexive strategies for representing trauma in the narrative: Авторефлексивные стратегии репрезентации травмы в художественном нарративе на материале современной французской литературы

Larissa Muravieva