Trauma and Transit/ions: review of Gillian Whitlock's Soft Weapons: autobiography in transit

Kuttainen, Victoria (2007) Trauma and Transit/ions: review of Gillian Whitlock's Soft Weapons: autobiography in transit. Politics and Culture, 3. pp. 1-5.

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[Extract] Trauma as a, or the hot-topic of the 1990s has been widely commented upon. In critical discussions of literature and cultural studies, its signatures of belatedness, fractured testimony, and repetition became doxas of a critical academic language primed to the reception and circulation of trauma talk. The structures of testimony and witnessing were easily assimilated within the academy as models for reading, translating, and disseminating. In part, this easy absorption of trauma texts occurred because they conveyed a sense of urgency and renewed purpose to a critical enterprise languishing in the muck and morass of the culture wars. Decommissioned canons left a vacuum where Great Books of the Western liberal tradition had been somewhat displaced. And, as critical-theory fatigue set in and ennui began to emerge in response to the kind of impenetrable theory-talk that was fashionable in the 1990s, a niche market emerged for real stuff that mattered. Trauma also provided a seeming detour around difficult debates halted at the intersection of postcolonialism and the uncertainties and complexities emerging from third-wave feminism. Of course, because critics are—if nothing else—critics, the faddishness of trauma did not long pass unnoticed. It was observed that trauma had provided new millennial cannon fodder, which had spawned a critical trauma industry. This cynical charge about the appropriation of trauma emerged from an academic climate in which Schools of Literature—and struggling academics—were struggling to legitimate the continuance of their enterprise in troubled times. The cynicism also underscored an awareness of the realities of the commodification of academic discourses, and it suggested world-weariness in English Departments where it is no longer possible to pretend that the humanities, research, and teaching are immune from market trends. Into this climate of millennial exhaustion and cynicism, Gillian Whitlock has breathed new breath.

Item ID: 15715
Item Type: Article (Book Review)
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2011 05:19
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200508 Other Literatures in English @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950203 Languages and Literature @ 100%
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