Publication details [#7749]

McAlister, Sean. 2006. The explosive devices of memory: Trauma and the construction of identity in narrative. Language and Literature 15 (1) : 91–106. 16 pp.


This article attempts to show how a cognitive approach to textual analysis can function alongside other critical methodologies. Helen Weinzweig's novel 'Basic Black with Pearls' is an examination of the effects of trauma on the psyche, and in particular on its construction and maintenance of a sense of identity. As Shirley, the novel's narrator, struggles to locate the various aspects of her own identity, so too is the reader forced to experience this struggle in the act of attempting to construct for Shirley an identity out of her fragmented and discontinuous narrative. I approach this interpretational problem from two perspectives. Making use primarily of the work by Caruth, I demonstrate how Weinzweig's text might be read according to a canonical trauma paradigm. On the other hand, I consider Weinzweig's text within a cognitive stylistic framework, making use of Turner and Fauconnier's theory of conceptual blending and its various incarnations, as well as Lakoff's conceptual metaphor theory. With these methodologies, the article proposes an account of the specific stylistic differences between the narrative representation of identity and that of identity in trauma. (LLBA, Accession Number 200609574, (c) CSA [2007]. All rights reserved.)