No More “Eloquent Silence”: Narratives of Occupation, Civil War, and Intifada Write Everyday Violence and Challenge Trauma Theory

  • Nora Parr SOAS, University of London
Keywords: Eloquent Silence, Arabic Literature, Lebanese Civil War, Palestinian Intifadah, trauma, literary form


Discourse on trauma has re-emerged in an era where media and mobility bring it to global doorsteps. Frameworks for understanding trauma remain dictated by thinking that emerged from Europe’s “great wars” and American deployment to Vietnam. This framework—which sees trauma and the terrible as “out of time” or “other” to a perceived normal daily experience—has formed what critics call the “empire of trauma.” This empire limits how war, violence, and the terrible can be talked about and understood as part of (or not part of) contemporary life. Looking at two trauma narratives, Taḥta shams al-ḍuḥā (2004) by Ibrahim Nasrallah and Bāʾ mithl Baīt... mthl Baīrūt (1997; Trans B as in Beirut, 2008) by Iman Humaydan, the paper gives short readings that disrupt what has emerged as a binary of trauma theory. It shows how repetition and open endings turn everyday/trauma into everyday trauma, then goes on to explore how the novels develop language and generic structures so that they hold—rather than silence—tellings of the terrible.

Author Biography

Nora Parr, SOAS, University of London

is a postdoctoral fellow at SOAS, University of London on the AHRC/OWRI project Creative Multilingualism. She has lectured at King’s College London in Comparative Literature, was a visiting fellow in Jordan and Palestine with the Council for British Research in the Levant.

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