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Fictionalising Trauma

The Aesthetics of Marguerite Duras’s India Cycle

Sirkka Knuuttila

With Marguerite Duras being the most disputed French artist after World War II, symbolising trauma represents the most problematic crux of contemporary trauma research. This book brings together these troublesome issues by way of integrating Duras’s aesthetics and the challenge of working through major historical trauma. Starting from the concept of an embodied mind as developed in current social neuroscience, the study illuminates the stylistic devices of the famous India Cycle that arose from Duras’s relentless struggle with the trauma of French colonialism. It reveals how converting trauma into fiction can become a powerful emotional strategy for surviving traumatic events, which may provoke necessary changes in our cultural memory through collective sharing.


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Preface 7


7Preface The aim of this study is to offer a postcolonial analysis of Marguerite Duras’s transgeneric series entitled the ‘India Cycle’ (1964‒1976). Being a revised ver- sion of my dissertation in comparative literature published at the University of Helsinki in 2009, the book examines Duras’s aesthetics from the viewpoint of cognitive literary and film theories. The intention is to offer an alternative to the universalising psychoanalytic interpretations that became canonical in Duras- ian Euro-American exegesis during the course of the seventies and eighties. For, while a postcolonial perspective on Duras’s stylistics was long-awaited, a new interpretative line of study could be discerned only ten years ago in Martin Crowley’s examination of Duras’s ethics and Jane Bradley Winston’s postcolonial analysis on Duras’s early works. Finding these studies insightful and pertinent, I have followed this avenue. But I also wanted to adapt my expertise as a literary researcher to my knowledge as a medical practitioner. My interest in an emo- tion-focused cognitive study grew from the middle of the nineties, when Antonio Damasio’s Descartes’ Error (1994) saw the light of day. Then the relational con- cept of an embodied mind was rapidly developing in social neuroscience, while in parallel the basic theses of cognitive poetics were put forward in Poetics Today between 2002 and 2006. This guided me to focus on the audio-visual talent with which Duras transforms her embodied memory of historical trauma into arts. By using the concept of trauma as a prismatic tool, I could effectively reveal the...

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