Added: August 1, 2015 – Last updated: August 1, 2015


Author: Marinella Rodi-Risberg

Title: Writing Trauma, Writing Time and Space

Subtitle: Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and the Lear Group of Father-Daughter Incest Narratives

Place: Vaasa

Publisher: Vaasan yliopisto (University of Vaasa)

Year: November 2010

Pages: xii + 305pp.

Series: Acta Wasaensia No. 229

ISBN-13: 9789524763202 – Find a Library: Wikipedia, WorldCat

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | U.S. History | Offenders: Fathers Representations: Literature / Jane Smiley; Types: Child Sexual Abuse; Victims: Daughters, Trauma


Link: Vaasan yliopisto (Free Access)



  Acknowledgments (p. ix)
  1 Introduction (p. 1)
    1.1 Theorizing Trauma; or, Traumatic Theory (p. 4)
    1.2 Trauma and Literature: "The Real" and the Real (p. 10)
    1.3 Theorizing Incest Narratives (p. 21)
    1.4 Toward a Reading of Trauma in Terms of Time and Space (p. 28)
    1.5 Reading Trauma in Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and the Lear Group of Father-Daughter Incest Narratives (p. 35)
  Part 1   Trauma's Time and Intertextuality (p. 37)
  2 A Thousand Acres and Lear's Folkloric Analogs: Incestuous Fathers (p. 54)
    2.1 The Return of the Repressed: Recovering, Repeating, and Remembering (Folk)Tales of Father-Daughter Incest (p. 58)
    2.2 Retrieving the Folk Narratives behind King Lear: The "Lecherous Father" (p. 69)
    2.3 Folk Revisited: A Thousand Acres and "Thousandfurs" (p. 77)
    2.4 Tales to Remember (p. 98)
  3 King Lear and A Thousand Acres as Simultaneously Present: Rewriting Lear, Rewriting Incest (p. 101)
    3.1 Repetition as an Attempt at Mastery (p. 102)
    3.2 "Nothing will come of nothing": Incest and Lear (p. 104)
    3.3 Incestuous Fathers and Good Girls: "I love you more than words can wield the matter" (p. 114)
  4 Ex-Centric Narratives: Other Contemporary Female-Authored Lears (p. 133)
    4.1 Acting "out of Shakespeare" (p. 135)
    4.2 On Stage: Lear's Daughters (p. 138)
    4.3 Novel Lears (p. 142)
    4.4 Reading Twice Told Tales (p. 164)
  Part II   Trauma's Space: Landscape, Corporeality, and Textuality (p. 167)
  5 Trauma and the Natural World: (Dis)Location, Pastoral Place, and the Women/Land Trope (p. 183)
    5.1 Trauma, Memory, and Landscape (p. 184)
    5.2 "Have you reckon'd a thousand acres much?": Gendered Trauma and American Pastoral (p. 189)
    5.3 Contested Landscapes, Contested Narratives (p. 200)
    5.4 Suppressed Histories (p. 221)
  6. Trauma and the Corporeal (p. 223)
    6.1 Theorizing "Foreign Bodies" (p. 224)
    6.2 "The body repeats the landscape": Re-Membering the Body Traumatic (p. 227)
  7 Trauma and Textual Space (p. 253)
    7.1 Trauma, Narration, and the Reader (p. 254)
    7.2 Textual Working Through: "The Gleaming Obsidian Shard" (p. 258)
    7.3 Reading as Witnessing (p. 272)
  8 Conclusion (p. 275)
  Works Cited (p. 278)
  Index (p. 302)


Trauma, a phenomenon which is too shocking to be fully registered upon occurrence and which instead only manifests belatedly and somewhere else in intrusive images and compulsive reenactments, offers specific challenges to traditional notions of referentiality. The last twenty years or so have witnessed in different fields an upsurge of publications devoted to the phenomenon and its representation. This study seeks to explore how traumatic experiences such as incest can be represented, read, and perhaps worked through in terms of temporal and spatial references. By reading Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres (1991) in relation to the Lear group of father-daughter incest narratives in dialogue with contemporary trauma theory, while also contextualizing the novel against other contemporary female-authored Lears by The Women’s Theatre Group with Elaine Feinstein, Mairi MacInnes, Margaret Atwood, Lucy Ellmann, Valerie Miner, Ann Tyler, and Laura Esquivel, this work argues that different authors’ frequent appropriations of the same Lear story across time can be seen as intertextual (re-)enactments of a not-yet-graspable moment of father-daughter incest in an earlier source and as such can be considered part of a continuum with personal trauma narratives. These repeated returns simultaneously signal attempts to come to terms with the trauma textually but also to implicate the reader in recalling the story of trauma as a form of cultural memory.
This study also seeks to demonstrate that trauma in literature is represented, acted out, and possibly worked over, not just through references to time but also to space – geographical, bodily, and textual. Drawing on modern trauma theory in further dialogue, with ecocriticism, this thesis reads the articulation of psychic trauma in relation to descriptions of the poisoned farming landscape in A Thousand Acres, reconsidering the implications of situating a traumatic past spatially in a toxic landscape that has been gendered female by tracing a connection between the destruction of the land and the abuse of the daughters’ bodies. The bodily space of violation, mapped in relation to the contaminated body of land and doubly erased – turned foreign by trauma and through being poisoned through the land – paradoxically emerges as a faithful witness to both the sexual violation and the land abuse. Finally, this present study argues that trauma fiction itself, such as Smiley’s novel, can become a memory-site for remembering and bearing witness to the past traumatic moment, and so replace toxic physical or geographical places as memory spaces providing the text does not understand too much but can communicate the spatio-temporally disruptive force of trauma.« (Source: )

Wikipedia: Jane Smiley: A Thousand Acres