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From Representing Trauma to Traumatized Representation: Experiential and Reflective Modes of Narrating the Past

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In contrast to history, which strives for a neutral and objective stance from which to narrate the past, literature can be thought of as multi-functional when it comes to traumatic history: as healing, in that it restores meaning where it has been destroyed; as subversive, in that it tells counter-histories of the master-narrative; as complementary, in that it integrates suppressed voices and painful experiences into the collective memory; or as disturbing, in that it narrates trauma as a persisting condition that continues into the present. This article looks into literary representations of trauma that make use of different narrative modes to reconstruct the past and to deal with collective trauma in 20th-century China. In order to understand the relationship between historical trauma and collective memory and to demonstrate the way in which memory relates to the past and to what extent memory shapes the collective identity of the present, the paper utilizes the concepts of communicative and cultural memory, as formulated by Jan and Aleida Assmann.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Asian, Middle Eastern and Turkish Studies, Stockholm University, 106 91Stockholm, Kräftriket 4B,


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