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

Travelling in Time and Space in Literature in English

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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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The narrative of loss in Joan Didion’s Blue nights: Katarzyna Kuczma, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan

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Katarzyna Kuczma, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

ABSTRACT

Joan Didion wrote the memoir Blue nights (2011) in response to the death of her daughter Quintana Roo. This article discusses her narrative of loss in the attempt to verbalize and understand its form(s) and meaning(s). In uncovering the intricacies of Didion’s narrated loss helpful was the recently published research on trauma: by Cathy Caruth, Kai Erikson, Bessel van der Kolk and Onno van der Hart, among others; as well as the memoirs: Didion’s earlier text The year of magical thinking (2005), May Sarton’s Recovering (1980), and C.S. Lewis’s A grief observed (1961). In this article Blue nights is read as a mother’s mourning; as an attempt at ordering, making sense of and understanding the past as well as an endeavor to save a lived life from oblivion by countering the forces of forgetting. Didion’s idiosyncratic nonlinear, repetitive, and circular narrative recounts a traumatic experience of wounded minds and bodies. The narrative voice self-reflexively folds upon itself, analyzing its own anxieties, grief and mourning as it tries to navigate the narrative into the realm of the restorative. Ultimately, in Didion’s memoir it is the narrative journey, the effort guided by the ethical imperative to live and offer testimony, the wish for and the process of recovering that matter and where we trace certain forces and mechanisms that shape the human condition.

Joan Didion is an acknowledged literary journalist and novelist.1 Nonetheless, it is with her...

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