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Space, Trauma and Recovery in Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss

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Organizer: Maayan Eitan

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Space, Trauma and Recovery in Kathryn Harrison’s The Kiss


Kathryn Harrison’s 1997 memoir The Kiss depicts an incestuous relationship between a father and his 20 years old daughter. This relationship takes place a decade after they had last seen each other, and is told in first-person by the daughter and from her perspective. Similar to theoretical, legal, social or psychoanalytic studies dealing with incest and childhood sexual abuse,[1] Harrison recounts the traumatic influence of these experiences over her life. Differently from that literature, the literary space offers to rethink acts of incest in a more complex way, taking into account the meanings of social taboos and their transgression (Stav 2010).

In this presentation I offer the category of a “negative” chronotope (Ginsburg 2006) in order to describe how certain traumatic events are uniquely depicted in the memoir as a form of existing outside of (actual and social) space and time, or in a space and time defined by their negation. This form of chronotope, I argue, is expressed in the memoir by repeated dislocations and incongruities between space and body.

Memoirs, according to Lee Gilmore (2002), usually utilize the description of memories as the main device for expressing a biographical truth from a personal perspective. Yet by destabilizing the private/public dichotomy, Harrison makes use of writing (and publication) as a form of resistance. Thus, this presentation will also ask to rethink the category of recovery as a political category, embedded in the public expression of personal memories.  
 
[1]  See, for example, Lewis Herman (1992), Frawley and Davis (1994), Caruth (1996) MacKinnon (2005), and many more.


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