Vol. 4 No. 1 2020

The Ethical Break: Marguerite Duras, Jorie Graham, and M. NourbeSe Philip
Author:Herman Rapaport    Time:2020-07-06    Click:

Abstract: In addition to positing a historical, traumatic, and representational break relative to the end of World War II in Europe, this essay posits the idea of an ethical break concerning the abrogation of the right to life as figured in three texts: La Douleur, a memoir by Marguerite Duras; Overlord, lyrical poetry by Jorie Graham; and Zong!, a conceptual poem by M. NourbeSe Philip. Conceptually all four breaks converge synchronically as the instantiation of an event everyone has experienced as catastrophic, but diachronically history, trauma, representation, and ethics may not be recognized simultaneously, since it may take years for society to accept social trauma or ethical fault, not to mention finding adequate means of representing catastrophe, or accepting the verdicts of history and the changes they have required. The three literary works that concern a historical break inherently reveal both the simultaneity and asymmetry of ethics, representation, and trauma.

Keywords: trauma, history, representation, ethics

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