Dorothy Stringer

in Not Even Past

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780823231478
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241088 | DOI:

Series: American Literatures Initiative


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This book addresses images of nineteenth-century slavery in several twentieth-century, modernist novels and photographs. The texts under discussion here are not direct literary testimony to historical violence; rather, they evince the “overlap,” at once temporal and textual, between writing and the writing process, between traumatic symptom and critical recognition of trauma, between historical events of extreme violence and subsequent, quotidian psychic life. Freud read the game as a figuration of the child's mother's absence. More broadly, he identified the fort/da game as “beyond the pleasure principle”: it is not driven by the search for gratification, since the baby is not representing something he wishes to have. Instead, fort/da is a critical activity. Beyond focuses on traumatic illnesses, such as soldiers' “shell-shock,” whose severity and extrapsychic origins pose a fundamental challenge to psychoanalysis.

Keywords: slavery; writing; trauma; fort/da; Freud; shell-shock; psychoanalysis

Chapter.  7964 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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