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Alan Cumyn’s Man of Bone offers a powerful example of the traumatic impact that captivity and torture can afford on a human being. The novel narrates the nine-month-long period during which Bill Burridge, a Canadian diplomat, endures captivity and torture after a guerrilla faction kidnaps him on the imaginary South Pacific Island of Santa Irene. Hooded for most of the narration until his release, Burridge gives way to a wide range of responses, his narrative evoking the terror of uncertainty and life threat in its disjunctive presentation, hallucination, dream realm and stylistic fragmentation. Language narrows in on small details recorded in elliptical sentences, whose choppy structures convey suffocation and awe; to keep such devastating feelings at bay and distract his mind, the protagonist turns to repetitive patterns and flashbacks. Even when freed, Burridge persists with his fixation on details, dissociative flashbacks and exploitation of water imagery to convey the sense of distressed immersion, making it hard for the readers to determine the boundary between the real and the imaginary. His narrative keeps echoing his inability to disentangle himself from the obsessive thoughts that drive him outside himself and cause him to relive the experience in confused divided consciousness. The discussion of trauma from captivity and torture will call on psychoanalytical theories of Michael Balint, Wilfred R. Bion, Frances Tustin and Judith Mitrani.

In: Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations
In: Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations
In: Tricks with a Glass
In: Tricks with a Glass
In: Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations
Author:

Abstract

Alan Cumyn’s Man of Bone offers a powerful example of the traumatic impact that captivity and torture can afford on a human being. The novel narrates the nine-month-long period during which Bill Burridge, a Canadian diplomat, endures captivity and torture after a guerrilla faction kidnaps him on the imaginary South Pacific Island of Santa Irene. Hooded for most of the narration until his release, Burridge gives way to a wide range of responses, his narrative evoking the terror of uncertainty and life threat in its disjunctive presentation, hallucination, dream realm and stylistic fragmentation. Language narrows in on small details recorded in elliptical sentences, whose choppy structures convey suffocation and awe; to keep such devastating feelings at bay and distract his mind, the protagonist turns to repetitive patterns and flashbacks. Even when freed, Burridge persists with his fixation on details, dissociative flashbacks and exploitation of water imagery to convey the sense of distressed immersion, making it hard for the readers to determine the boundary between the real and the imaginary. His narrative keeps echoing his inability to disentangle himself from the obsessive thoughts that drive him outside himself and cause him to relive the experience in confused divided consciousness. The discussion of trauma from captivity and torture will call on psychoanalytical theories of Michael Balint, Wilfred R. Bion, Frances Tustin and Judith Mitrani.

In: Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations
In: What Happened? Re-presenting Traumas, Uncovering Recoveries
Author:

With its reflections on the self caught between countries and languages, Nancy Huston’s essay Losing North leads itself to a psychoanalytical and textual exploration of loss and dis-orientation resulting from the experience of exile borne in part of a need to distance the self from childhood traumatic experiences, namely her mother’s walking out on the family, never to return. Based on the author’s experience of expatriation, the essay records, with humour, nostalgia and rationalisation alternately, a variety of emotions and dis/advantages to her condition that bring to mind the theories of Klein, Winnicott, Bion and Kristeva. With their focus on self-hate and guilt, lack of holding and continuity, false and true self, severed links and bond, disorientation, these theories help explain the likely sources of the text’s ruptures. Close reading and deconstructive approach, in turn, confirm the psychoanalytical theories as they highlight what Jacqueline Rose would consider writing that reveals unconscious phenomena. Indeed in its attempt to deconstruct the metaphor of losing north, the text loses ground increasingly while its voice remains continually floating, language drifting away from the speaker’s centre of self. Although the text clearly struggles to engage in a Derridian practice of word play to get beyond unitary meaning, the textual voice follows a unidirectional, indeed unidimensional thread, avoiding affective planes, erasing the feminine, thereby perpetuating its own entrapment. Losing North thus illustrates a particular exploitation of Derridian word play, fabricating associations while probing, and grappling with, meanings of disorientation to avoid letting trauma seep into it and particularly the emotions related to the maternal.

In: Trauma and Meaning Making
In: Telling Stories
Traumatic experiences with an overwhelming life-threatening feel affect numerous people’s lives. Death and disablement through accident, illness, war, family violence, natural and human-induced disaster can be experienced variously at an individual level through to whole communities and nations. Traumatic memories are intrusive and insistent but fragmented and distorted by the power of sensory information frozen in time. This volume examines the ways individuals, families, communities and nations have engaged with representations of traumas and the ethical dimensions embedded in those re-presentations. Contributors also explore the work of recovering from trauma and finding resilience through working with narrative and embodied forms such as dance and breathing. The ubiquity of trauma in human experience means that pathways to recovery differ, emerging from the way each engages with the world. Sharing, and reflecting on, the ways each copes with trauma contributes to its understanding as well as pathways to recovery and new strengths. Contributors are Svetlana Antropova, Peter Bray, Kate Burton, Mark Callaghan, Marie France Forcier, Monica Hinton, Gen’ichiro Itakura, Danielle Schaub, Zeina Tarraf and Paul Vivian.