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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Crises of Postmemory: Deferred Postmemory in Second-Generation Novels after the Algerian War

  • Author(s): Haddix, Anneka Wylie
  • Advisor(s): Brozgal, Lia N
  • et al.

“Crises of Postmemory: Deferred Postmemory in Second-Generation Novels after the Algerian War” examines the role of literature at the intersection of trauma, memory, transmission in the context of Franco-Algerian history. Expanding Marianne Hirsch’s concept of postmemory investigates the relationship between the generation that lives through a traumatic event and the extent to which their traumatic memories can be inherited by the next generation. This theory is based on intergenerational communication and transmission, which often occur to such a great extent that the experiences of the second generation can appear to be dominated by the ‘memories’ inherited from the first generation. This dissertation expands on the idea of postmemory in the context of the Algerian War for independence and its afterlives in France. In this case, the second generation is often met with silence and avoidance from the first generation. Rather than being inundated with others’ memories as Hirsch described, these descendants must actively seek out the past on their own, often without the intervention of the first generation. Although delay can be inferred from the name “postmemory” the experiences explored in this project are further removed from the original trauma of the first generation and therefore represent what I term deferred postmemory.

The six historically based francophone fictional texts studied in this project are constructed on the collective trauma experienced and retained by the first generation; a trauma, which although unexpressed, marked the second generation through its both internal and external censorship. Moving farther away traditional postmemory with each chapter, this project analyzes how the second-generation uses diverse scaffolds to gain access to the unshared traumatic past of the first generation. Each chapter presents a couplet of texts that engage with the same historical moment or depict the same method for discovering different traumatic pasts. Through testimonial experiences, retracing the first generation’s movements to historically significant locations, and finally visiting and creating archives, the second-generation characters depicted in each text are better able comprehend the first-generation’s traumatic past and its impact on future generations.

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