‘Senseless speech’ and inaudibility in Conrad's ‘Amy Foster’: rethinking trauma and the unspeakable in fiction

Baxter, Katherine (2015) ‘Senseless speech’ and inaudibility in Conrad's ‘Amy Foster’: rethinking trauma and the unspeakable in fiction. Textual Practice, 30 (5). pp. 879-895. ISSN 0950-236X

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0950236X.2015.1084364


This essay revisits the significance of the trope of the unspeakable in representations of trauma in order to put pressure on traditional readings of the unspeakable in literary trauma theory. Taking Joseph Conrad’s short story, ‘Amy Foster’, as an illustrative example, I demonstrate how, in certain circumstances, trauma is not rendered unspeakable because reflection on it is impossible, but rather trauma is caused by the failure and/or frustration of speech itself. Furthermore, I draw upon Derrida’s Monolingualism of the Other; or, The Prosthesis of Origin, to parse out the implications of silence, language and the inaudible in texts, such as ‘Amy Foster’, that fail to conform to the usual expectations of the unspeakable in trauma literature. Narratives such as this challenge our standard paradigms in literary trauma theory. Building on Rancière’s critique of sublime aesthetics, in The Future of the Image, I argue that we need to broaden the categories by which we read the relationship between trauma and the unspeakable in literature, and in doing so be prepared to find trauma in unexpected places.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online first 19-10-2015. Contacted Dr Baxter to request AM 10-11-2015 PB.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Trauma, the unspeakable, Joseph Conrad, Jacques Derrida, Amy Foster
Subjects: Q300 English studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: Katherine Baxter
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2015 17:20
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2019 19:24
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/24405

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