Article published in:Keeping Ourselves Alive
[Journal of Narrative and Life History 3:2/3] 1993
► pp. 269–281
Narrative Silence in America's Stories
Abstract In the historical event of the American Revolution, as well as in certain central texts of the American literary imagination, a tension between the power of a community to define itself through language and the resistance of experiential history to such enclosure is represented through a particular form of narrative silence. This narrative form may first suggest repression and the failures of memory. But the American imagination has used narrative silence as a way of representing events that lie outside of the known and planned, in order to preserve the residual life of experience and so to bear witness to the imagina-tion's dependence on the whole of history. In this essay, I argue that this narrative form reveals a central paradox of the American cultural imagination: This imagination successfully encodes its story of community exactly insofar as it creates a place—in language and in thought—for the safely silent acknowl-edgement of the power of experiential knowledge and untold secrets. (Culture studies; literary criticism)
Published online: 04 August 2015
Bakhtin, M. M.
Buel, R., Jr.
Cappon, L. J. (Ed.)
Cooper, J. F.
Ferguson, R. A.
McWilliams, J. P., Jr.