Added: October 3, 2015 – Last updated: December 5, 2015


Speaker: Corina Crisu

Title: An Interstice of Silence

Subtitle: Narrating Rape in Oates’s “The Girl with the Blackened Eye” and Sebold’s The Lovely Bones

Conference: Trauma Narratives and ‘Herstory’: With a special emphasis on the work of Eva Figes (November 12-13, 2010)

Place: University of Northampton, Northampton, United Kingdom

Date: November 13, 2010

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 21st Century | American History: U.S. History | Representations: Literature / Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Sebold


Link: -


Speaker: Corina Ana Crisu, Departamentul de Limbi Moderne (Department of Modern Languages), Universitatea din București (University of Bucharest) –


»In narratives of trauma, the discarded, untold, and unspeakable past can be revealed in strikingly similar ways. Oscillating between testimony and testament (from the same Latin root, testis, “witness”), the text becomes a confession to the reader, a story dictated by the “repetitive structure” that lies at the heart of the traumatic event, whose painful experience is endlessly relived, and whose significance is never fully grasped (Caruth 1996). In a Derridean way, its meaning is infinitely deferred and only partially disclosed according to a whole rhetoric of absence.
The changing function of the textual message between testimony and testament, as well as the fluctuant roles of the narrative personae between witness and victim are subtly disclosed in two recent literary texts – Joyce Carol Oates`s “The Girl with the Blackened Eye” (2001) and Alice Sebold`s The Lovely Bones (2002). Read together in a complementary way, Oates`s short story and Sebold`s novel are first person narratives, in which two teenage girls are abducted, molested, and raped by serial killers, in the 70s in the U.S. If Oates`s story is that of a survivor, Sebold`s is that of a murdered victim; in the first case, the focus is on the victim`s traumatic experience, in the second, on the victim`s family and friends.
As the article demonstrates, in Oates`s and Sebold`s texts, the traumatic event can be seen as a “disruptive experience that disarticulates the self and creates holes in existence” (LaCapra 2001), so that either the victim or her family members are deeply affected by its belated effects. In both cases, the victims experience an ontological split, a violent separation between a past self placed under erasure and a present self placed under a question mark, experiencing the conflict between the will to deny horrible events and the will to proclaim them aloud, which is “the central dialectic of psychological trauma” (Herman 1992). By locating the problematics of the traumatic experience within a space of in-betweenness – that interstice of silence created by the unspeakable event, that breach in one`s perception of space and time – the article will further explore the complex relationship between memory and forgetting, confession and secrecy, personal and intergenerational traumas.« (Source: Trauma and Herstory Conference Blog)

Wikipedia: History of the Americas: History of the United States | Representation (arts): American literature / Joyce Carol Oates: I Am No One You Know: Stories; Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones