Beyond narrative

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This chapter will explore the limits and possibilities of narratives in which individuals turn to language to communicate the inexpressibility of experiences they have endured. The central dilemma for many survivors of trauma is that they must tell their stories, and yet their stories cannot be told. Traumatic experiences often defy understanding. Testimony of those who have survived can be marked by what is not there: coherence, structure, meaning, comprehensibility. The actual emplotment of trauma testimony into conventional narrative configurations — contained in time- transforms them into something which they are not: experiences which are endowed with a particular wholeness, which occurred in the past, and which have now ended. The paper concludes with a discussion of the relationship between language and silence in traumatic testimony.


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