Chapter 12 Transcending Genre: Narrative Strategies for Creating Literary Crime Fiction as a Subset of Trauma Literature

In: Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations
Leanne Dodd
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The subject matter of crime fiction makes it an ideal vehicle for representing trauma as a subset of trauma literature, which provides an opportunity for crime fiction to offer therapeutic benefits to readers. However, the ongoing debate about the definition of ‘literature’ has meant that crime fiction is positioned hierarchically lower in the cultural field than trauma literature. This paper will dispute widely-held beliefs that crime fiction cannot be literary or therapeutic by presenting a framework of trauma theory and its relationship to literature, followed by an analysis of how narrative strategies used in trauma literature that mimic the symptoms of trauma align with the fast-paced narrative and literary devices typical of crime fiction. Through a case study and critical reflection of how writers have engaged with trauma in contemporary fiction, this argument supports an emerging theory positing the literary quality of crime fiction when it includes an authentic representation of trauma, and therefore serves similar therapeutic purposes as trauma literature. The re-writing of the traumatic past in crime fiction offers an opportunity to empower large audiences with empathetic knowledge of trauma, transform perceptions, remove stigmas and assist in combating the marginalisation that impedes recovery for trauma survivors. It also provides a safe narrative space for readers to confront their own fears, brought on by exposure to traumatic events in more graphic and perilous ways. This investigation will be informative for crime fiction writers, particularly those aiming to engage with trauma survivors and attempting a more authentic representation of trauma in their work. It will also provide a foundation for writing strategies that transgress the boundaries between mass genre fiction and literary fiction, thereby leading the way for further research into the power of narrative to evoke psychological and emotional growth and its therapeutic benefits for a genre fiction audience.

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