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Trauma and Memory in Recent Mexican Narrative of the Twenty-First Century

  • Author(s): Cervantes, Judy
  • Advisor(s): Williams, Raymond L.
  • et al.
Abstract

In this dissertation I examine the representation of historical events in contemporary narratives. I offer a psychoanalytical approach to the understanding of a history that reappears in the present. I argue that the return of history to consciousness is itself the awakening of a traumatic loss. In the novels examined, history emerges from the ashes of a forgotten past manifesting a return to a wounded memory. My concern with the study of history and trauma is situated in a particular time frame, the post-revolutionary Mexico.

In chapter 1, I explore the politics of forgetting history in the narrative of Nadie me verá llorar and La Castañeda, by Cristina Rivera Garza. In both readings, the erasure of a history implicates the disappearance of a memory and a displaced identity. For the characters, the inaccessible occurrences of the revolution become graspable many years later through the reemerged images of violence and death. The confrontation with the past opens up the possibility of a future, one that emerges through a new language: the victims’. In chapter 2, I discuss the condition of coerced bodies, political-economical violence and complicity in La voluntad y la fortuna by Carlos Fuentes. Here a process of dehumanization allows for prisoners in a state of suspension between life and death to become targets of horrible torture crimes and genocide. Violence becomes a spectacle to be witnessed by the normative gaze of spectators. Furthermore, there is no public act of grieving for victims of a sovereign power that fails to recognize a loss. This leads to the debate on mourning and melancholia, rooted in Sigmund Freud’s work, and into a discussion on politics of memory. In my project I critique the politics of melancholia and argue for the advancement of an active mourning whereby the lost object is subsumed under a newly found object of affection. However, this does not entail a concluded mourning work since the substitution never fully erases the past by acknowledging the singularity of the lost object. Therefore, in an active mourning there is a connection to the legacy of trauma but also a perception of an imaginable future. In chapter 3, I consider the integration of performance in David Toscana’s Los puentes de Königsberg, as an act of transfer, transmitting a historical and cultural knowledge. The embodied performance of war and disappeared girls, participates in the transmission of communal traumatic memories. The reenactment of trauma serves as a witnessing of the event and also as a possibility of intervention with the past.

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