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IPP Workshop Series | Iryna Tarku: Between the 'Impossibility of Narration' and the 'Banality of Evil': Approaching Trauma and Resilience in Literary and Cultural Studies


Feb 07, 2023 from 02:00 to 04:00 (Europe/Berlin / UTC100)



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The current state of pandemics, wars, and climate change proves that through centuries societies have not become “immune to trauma” (Basseler 2019). Simultaneously, writers and researchers have been trying to narrativise and comprehend the influence of historical violence on individuals and groups. While approaching the analysis of testimonies and fiction written by trauma survivors, literary scholars face the ambiguous perception of trauma between the “impossibility of narration” (Assmann 1999) and the “banality of evil” (Arendt 2011). However, the writing process itself might be perceived as a means of bringing the fragmented pieces back together (e. g., van der Kolk and Fisler 1995) and developing a coherent narrative. Moreover, recent studies (e. g., Cyrulnik 2009, O'Brien 2017, Basseler 2019) highlight a paradigm shift towards the emerging concept of resilience – the ability to “bounce back” after experiencing trauma. In both local and transcultural contexts, traumatic events might foster meaning-making, empathy and solidarity because “history, like trauma, is never simply one’s own, [...] history is precisely the way we are implicated in each other’s traumas” (Caruth 1996, 24). Therefore, scholars investigate available individual and collective resources of resilience and how this positive coping behaviour can be cultivated.


In the first part of our workshop, we will sketch current theoretical approaches in the field of memory studies. In the second, we will use examples from contemporary Ukrainian literature about war in Donbas published since 2014 as case studies.


Works Cited:

Arendt, Hannah. (2011). Eichmann in Jerusalem: Ein Bericht von der Banalität des Bösen. München: Piper.

Assmann, Aleida. (1999). Erinnerungsräume. Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses. München: Beck.

Basseler, Michael. (2019). “Stories of Dangerous Life in the Post-Trauma Age: Toward a Cultural Narratology of Resilience.” In Narrative in Culture. Berlin and Boston: de Gruyter.

Caruth, Cathy. (1996). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Cyrulnik, Boris. (2009). Resilience: How Your Inner Strength Can Set You Free From the Past. London: Tarcher/Penguin.

O'Brien, Susie. (2017). “Resilience Stories: Narratives of Adaptation, Refusal and Compromise.” In Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, Vol. 4, No. 2–3, pp. 43–65.

van der Kolk, Bessel and Fisler, Rita. (1995). “Dissociation and the fragmentary nature of traumatic memories: overview and exploratory study”, in: Journal of Traumatic Stress 8(4): pp. 505–25.


The IPP Workshop Series

It offers IPP members the opportunity to lead a workshop on current concepts and methods in the Study of culture. The aim of the series is to create an interactive discussion group for doctoral candidates and students. The topics can range from general introductions to various "schools" of literary and cultural theory to concepts, methods and topics of literary and cultural theory.