Lecture by Pascale Antolin (Université Bordeaux Montaigne)
A “Visible Form of Invisibility”: Hybridity and Figuration in Siri Hustvedt’s The Shaking Woman
This lecture will focus on the tensions at the heart of Siri Hustvedt’s The Shaking Woman, between exploration and avoidance, representation and figuration, illness, hysteria or trauma as the origin of the narrator’s chronic seizures. While Hustvedt explores all the medical and psychological causes of convulsions, she repeatedly mentions the possibility of a trauma as the origin of her seizures but never follows this lead. These tensions produce a hybrid narrative: at first sight, the book suggests an illness memoir and a quest pattern, but the narrative is also digressive and didactic, thus closer to essay writing. However, as Hustvedt’s seizures and the same unanswered questions as to their origin repeat themselves, the narrative turns out to be strangely circular as well, thus creating the sense of a loop. This hybrid narrative is suggestive of the “dialectic of trauma” (Herman), which involves both “call[ing] attention to the existence of an unspeakable secret and deflect[ing] attention from it” (Herman), hence the need for figuration. Eventually, The Shaking Woman will be interpreted as the figuration of an inarticulate trauma, and therefore as “a performance act,” which questions traditional hermeneutic categories.
April 12th | 6 pm | Anf. IV (FLUL)
Session chaired by António Duarte (FPUL)