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The Trauma of Child Death: The Discourse of Mourning in Camille Laurens's and Laure Adler's Autobiographical Writings

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This article addresses a noteworthy development in French women's autobiographical texts of the extreme contemporary: the painful writing of mourning subsequent to the traumatic death of a child. Trauma theorists such as Cathy Caruth, Susan Brison, Shoshana Felman, and Dori Laub insist on the importance of the narration of the traumatic experience in the form of a 'meaningful [...] story' (Caruth, 1996: 117) enabling the object of the trauma to become the subject of her own story, and thus effecting a transformation of her status from passive victim to agential subject. If, however, trauma is beyond words and 'unspeakable' (in both senses of the adjective), how can one find the adequate discursive means to represent it, how can one transform the traumatic experience into a narrative? Drawing on theories of trauma and mourning, the article analyzes the ways in which two contemporary French writers, Laure Adler and Camille Laurens, deal with this daunting discursive dilemma, following the passing of their respective infants. Using various textual strategies, Adler and Laurens both succeed in narrating poignant accounts of loss, producing in each case a 'livre-tombeau' which is simultaneously a book of death and a book of life, allowing the deceased infant to live on through the writing of the trauma of mourning.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 9, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The Irish Journal of French Studies is an annual international refereed journal published by the Association des Études Françaises et Francophones d'Irlande. Articles in English, French or Irish are welcomed on any aspect of research in the area of French and Francophone culture, society, literature and thought. Articles published within the last two years are available free online to members and may be purchased by non-members. All other articles are available on an open access basis.

    Please note that the Print ISSN listed for the journal on this website applies to volumes 1 to 10, and part of volume 16. All other volumes are published, in their entirety, on-line only.

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