Witnessing Trauma in Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life

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Critique : Studies in Contemporary Fiction. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. 2021, 62(3), pp. 334-346. ISSN 0011-1619. eISSN 1939-9138. Available under: doi: 10.1080/00111619.2020.1858750
Zusammenfassung

This article explores the controversial reception of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (2015) through the framework of trauma theory. The polarizing novel earned both acclaim and contempt for its extreme portrayal of sexual abuse in the protagonist Jude’s childhood and the haunting effect thereof on him as a self-harming adult. For many readers, the excessive amount of violence and the highly emotional tone of the novel simply became ‘too much to bear’. Contextualizing Yanagihara’s novel within current discourses on literary trauma, I argue that the book deliberately textualizes the affective incommensurability of Jude’s trauma into its melodramatically exuberant form and content. Negotiating between emphatic proximity and distance, Yanagihara enforces unto the reader a form of compassionate witnessing that may be too close for comfort and dares its witnesses to respond in an equally extreme manner. A Little Life thus opens up a thought-provoking perspective onto the status of narrative perspective and focalization in contemporary trauma fiction.

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800 Literatur, Rhetorik, Literaturwissenschaft
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ISO 690KELLERMANN, Jonas, 2021. Witnessing Trauma in Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life. In: Critique : Studies in Contemporary Fiction. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. 2021, 62(3), pp. 334-346. ISSN 0011-1619. eISSN 1939-9138. Available under: doi: 10.1080/00111619.2020.1858750
BibTex
@article{Kellermann2021Witne-53575,
  year={2021},
  doi={10.1080/00111619.2020.1858750},
  title={Witnessing Trauma in Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life},
  number={3},
  volume={62},
  issn={0011-1619},
  journal={Critique : Studies in Contemporary Fiction},
  pages={334--346},
  author={Kellermann, Jonas}
}
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