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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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Acknowledgements 9


9Acknowledgements It was more than natural that Marguerite Duras’s intergeneric art proved to be for me the most appealing corpus for a closer examination of the aesthetics of trauma. Since the late seventies, I had pondered on how much of the unsaya- ble is mediated visually through the expressive powers of the body in human interaction, while non-verbal language seemed to me to play a central role in all interpersonal communication. Therefore, first of all, I would like to thank two indispensable persons who opened the pathway towards this study. The first is Dr Franciska Skutta, who in 1993 in Kossuth Lajos University, Hungary, revealed to me Duras’s cyclic style, and the second is Professor Riitta Hari who in 1995 introduced me to the Damasian relational concept of an embodied mind. For the practical impetus to write the study I would like to thank my supervi- sors, Professors of Comparative Literature, Hannu Riikonen and Heta Pyrhönen from the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts. Hannu Riikonen sensibly helped me to seek guidance from Professor Christopher Prendergast, whose comment turned my attention to Duras’s style as a criticism of modern society. Heta Pyrhönen valuably indicated to me the seminal interdisciplinary sources of trauma narratives, and appositely criticised the theoretical and semantic content of the study. I am also grateful to Professor Mervi Helkkula from the Univer- sity of Helsinki for the supervision of the examination process, and to Docent Päivi Kosonen from the University of Tampere for her...

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