Towards a New Master Narrative of Trauma: A Reading of Terrance Hayes’ “American Sonnet for my Past and Future Assassin” and Mostafa Ibrahim’s “I Have Seen Today”

  • Sahar Elmougy Cairo University
Keywords: Cultural trauma, Master narrative, Poetry, African American, 2011 Egyptian Revolution


The Egyptian revolutionaries, who in 2011 called for “bread, freedom and social justice,” witnessed the shattering of their dream and suffered the pain of being abandoned by the masses and silenced by the post-revolution regime in Egypt. The aim of this article is to explore indications of the creation of a “cultural trauma” (Alexander, “Towards”) for the Egyptian revolutionaries through a reading of Mustafa Ibrahim’s poem “I Have Seen Today.” In order to accomplish this task, this paper will first examine how the cultural trauma of African Americans (Eyerman, Slavery) responds to fresh triggers. In Terrance Hayes’s “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin,” the election of Donald Trump as US president is the trigger to the older trauma. Comparing Ibrahim’s poem to Hayes’s aims at underlining the tools used by the Egyptian revolutionaries to create “a new master narrative” of trauma (Alexander, “Towards” 12) that could reconstruct the collective identity and redirect the course of political action.

Author Biography

Sahar Elmougy, Cairo University

An assistant professor of American Studies and English poetry at the English Department, the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University, Elmougy’s academic interests include feminism, Jungian psychoanalytic theory, performance theory, trauma theories, and memory studies. She is also a published novelist whose novel Noon won the 2007 Cavafis prize. Her latest work, Mesk Eltall (The Musk of the Hill), was published in 2017.

How to Cite