Following the Aesthetic Impulse: A Comparative Approach to a Poetics of Trauma

Jenna Brooke

Abstract


"The discussion that follows integrates poetic excerpts from authors often associated with trauma literature, such as Audre Lorde, Virginia Woolf, Jeanette Winterson, and Canadian Indigenous author Beckylane. My use of literature serves to model how poetry becomes a site of change and transformation for survivors as both readers and writers. Discussing how this transformation occurs requires philosophical grounding in understanding of the mimetic reference of the poetically creative and imaginative act, which I take from Ricoeur’s phenomenological hermeneutics. A brief discussion of Ricoeur’s theory of the living metaphor is included as a means of locating poetry as an aesthetically mediating imaginative and imitative act in the process of healing. My own expressive arts practice with survivors is mentioned only briefly, as the purpose of this article is to further develop and share the theoretical foundations with which I currently work, namely, a poetics of trauma framed within a practice that is feminist and anti-oppressive. As Kalí Tal states in Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma: “When a survivor testifies, she both purges herself of an internal ‘evil’ and bears witness to a social or political injustice” (200). I agree with Tal that the political dimension of survivors’ poetic transformations of traumatic experience is always present and always part of individual and collective healing."

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