Traumatic Possessions: The Body and Memory in African American Women's Writing and Performance

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Author: Nina Mikkelsen
Date: Winter 2010
From: MELUS(Vol. 35, Issue 4)
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Document Type: Book review
Length: 692 words
Lexile Measure: 1370L

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Traumatic Possessions: The Body and Memory in African American Women's Writing and Performance. Jennifer L. Griffiths. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2010. 160 pages. $39.50 cloth; $19.50 paper.

Jennifer L. Griffiths studies the subject of traumatized individuals in literature with particular attention to how black women in US history have been represented and on the post-traumatic recovery process in which subjects begin to make sense of the body's complex, contradictory, and dissociated memories. As she explains, "memory becomes encoded on a bodily level and resurfaces as possession," and "only a connection to another body can bridge [the] break between body and language" (1). For the healing process to begin, the subject must grant her story reality by telling it to an empathetic listener who can bear witness to the memory and affirm the traumatic experience.

To investigate how gender and race affect the listener's interpretation of the survivor's story, Griffiths focuses on an "intersubjective dynamic involved in the creation of testimony after trauma ... as it relates to the black female...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A245541096