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The Human Sausage Factory

A Study of Post-War Rumour in Tartu


Eda Kalmre

Under certain conditions, some rumours, which were established as part of folklore already long ago, may become fixed in the memory and the subconscious of several generations. This is what happened with the rumour about a human sausage factory after the Second World War. In Tartu, Estonia, this rumour obtained a symbolic meaning and power due to the politics of the totalitarian Soviet regime. The memories of the post-war period are still vivid in the collective mind, and the onetime rumour of sausage factories incorporates the population’s tensions, pain, loss, choices, defiance and irreconcilability. The individual and community emotions that are brought to a focus in this discourse are an indicator of defining social boundaries and behaviour, of ‘us’ and ‘them’. When describing the events that took place in Tartu, folklore becomes a powerful tool with which to construe the meaning of the era at the social level.
Through documents, photos and people’s memories, the book offers an insight into the city of Tartu after the Second World War and reveals the several layers of meaning represented by rumour in this period.

Undigested Past

The Holocaust in Lithuania


Robert van Voren


Catherine Pesso-Miquel

This paper examines the narrative and aesthetic strategies of John Fowles and Graham Swift as they deal with the theme of post-Darwinian anxiety and loss of faith, Darwinism being used both in its literal meaning and as a metaphor for social evolution. The contention is that Swift’s literary treatment allows for the creation of a trauma narrative conducive to reader empathy and identification, while Fowles precludes any possibility of empathy through the use of postmodernist distancing and frame-breaking. Other neo-Victorian novelists are evoked for purposes of comparison, notably A.S. Byatt, Liz Jensen, and A.N. Wilson, whose novels are characterised by a mainly ludic and comic tone. The essay analyses the specific effects created by the insertion of rare moments of sombre sobriety devoted to the telling of trauma within ironic and/or parodic neo-Victorian works.


Kate Mitchell

Kate Grenville’s The Secret River (2005) enacts a narrative return to the violent trauma of Aboriginal dispossession and destruction upon which Australia is founded, situating its reader complexly, as both witness to and complicit in the events it retells. Her use of fiction to represent this trauma made Grenville the focus of heated public debate about the role of fiction in representing the past, a debate that repeatedly cast her project as historically dubious. However, rather than approaching the novel as a corrupted form of history’s reconstruction of past events, it seems more useful to situate this text as an act of memory in the present, which shapes both past and future. Even as it represents the past, Grenville’s novel addresses a present both deeply divided and in danger of forgetting its history. It uses the affective power of fiction to reinscribe and reactivate Aboriginal Australian history in the contemporary historical imaginary.


Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben

Increasingly, the nineteenth century has become a significant locus of investigations into historical trauma, in terms of the retrospective analysis of actual catastrophic events and their long term after-effects, as well as their fictional re-experience and belated ‘working through’ in literature. The neo-Victorian phenomenon both reflects and contributes to crucial developments in trauma discourse and cultural memory, both at national and global levels, constructing competing versions of the past that continue to inform the present. Crucially, the neo-Victorian also problematises the politicisation and appropriation of trauma and resulting ethical dilemmas vis-à-vis the suffering other, especially relating to the notion of trauma’s unrepresentability and the figurative language used to convey the central paradox of the unspeakable.


Edited by Marie-Luise Kohlke and Christian Gutleben