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«Of What is Past, or Passing, or to Come»

Travelling in Time and Space in Literature in English


Edited By Liliana Sikorska

This volume, entitled Of what is past, or passing, or to come: Travelling in Time and Space in Literature in English was inspired by the work of the writer, culture historian and mythographer Marina Warner and the professor of comparative literature Cathy Caruth. The lines quoted above are from W.B. Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium, which are recalled by one of the characters in Marina Warner’s novel In a Dark Wood (1977). The articles included in this volume are devoted to the explorations of individual space and landscape of the mind through analyzing trauma and addressing psychological wounds, and to travels into fairy tales, oriental scenery real and imaginary as well as interrelationships between memory and fiction in non-fictional and fictional discourses.
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Disappearing history: Scenes of trauma in the theater of human rights: Cathy Caruth, Cornell University, Ithaca


Cathy Caruth, Cornell University, Ithaca

Ariel Dorfman’s 1991 play Death and the maiden is set in the present time in a country that “is probably Chile” but “could be any country that has just departed from a dictatorship” (tr. mod.).1 Taking place in a remote beach house primarily on a single night and day, the play follows the actions of a woman, Paulina, who has been tortured by the previous regime and whose husband, Gerardo, a human rights lawyer, has just been appointed to head a truth commission established by the new transitional government. Surprised in the middle of the night by Roberto, a stranger who has given Gerardo a ride home and returns unexpectedly at midnight to give Gerardo back his spare tire, Paulina believes she recognizes the voice and idioms of the man who has tortured her while she was blindfolded. She ultimately manages to capture Roberto in the house and stage a “trial” at gunpoint in which, with the coerced cooperation of her husband, she forces from the stranger a confession, while playing a tape of the Schubert quartet that was played while she was raped. Unsatisfied by the “confession”, Paulina considers killing him, an act left suspended in the play, the last scene of which ends in a theater where the Schubert quartet is being performed and where Paulina believes she sees Roberto (or his ghost) staring at her in a phantasmatic light.

Written during the transitional government that followed the...

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