Niagara Falls Convention Center
Event: NeMLA 2023
Trauma, as theorized by Cathy Caruth, is an experience that occurs both too soon and too late. Too soon, in that the psyche is traumatized from being unprepared for the event; too late, in that the psyche attempts to work through trauma through the repetition compulsion. But, as Felman and Laub noted in their influential Testimony: Crises of Witnessing In Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, the most traumatic elements of testimony are frequently communicated via silences. How, then, can trauma be passed down to future generations of a family? This panels considers recent psychiatric research on “sensorimotor memory,” or memories stored in the body and communicated via sensory expressions, as a sign of intergenerational trauma when repeated by future generations of a family. Consider, for example, Ann-Marie MacDonald’s use of musical language and “Oh My Darling Clementine” as an accompaniment to the trauma in Fall on Your Knees; the visceral descriptions of food and cooking in Francesca Ekwuyasi’s Butter Honey Pig Bread; the tactile and olfactory descriptions of the land in the works of Lee Maracle. This panel is open to theoretical and literary papers focusing on the role of sensory memory in works of intergenerational trauma in anglophone literature, and ultimately aims to think through how trauma is passed down to future generations of a family.