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international conference

Arts of Healing: Cultural Narratives of Trauma


3 - 5 November 2016

The Department of Philology, Universitatea Petrol-Gaze din Ploieşti

The Centre of Literary Studies, Linguistics, Theory of Criticism and Culture


in collaboration with


The Department of English Studies, University of Cyprus


  • Associate Professor dr. Maria Margaroni, University of Cyprus

  • Professor Hab. Silviu Lupaşcu, University of Galați


Starting with the nineties, the role of cultural memory was re-evaluated through trauma theory which has become a dominant framework within which one can investigate the transmission of catastrophic experiences. More specifically, the work of Cathy Caruth (Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History), Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub (Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History), Avishai Margalit (The Ethics of Memory), Dominick LaCapra (History and Memory after Auschwitz) has shown that, after a traumatic event, the role of memory in witnessing changes. The survivor of a trauma finds it impossible to relate to what happened to him/ her, as suffering is not easy to translate into a logical frame, and evil cannot be diagnosed. Because trauma often disrupts the mechanisms by which memory is represented and a trauma victim finds it hard to heal his/ her wounds, the testimony is invalidated and the victim is not given credibility to report events as they happened (LaCapra and Dori Laub). Whereas historians tend not to take into account the testimony of witnesses, others emphasize the responsibility of transmission.  


If what has become known as the classical model of trauma has foregrounded the unrepresentability of the traumatic event, revisionist approaches seek to move beyond an aporetic understanding of trauma, investigating both intersubjective and intrasubjective psychic processes of healing (See, for example, Ruth Leys, Trauma: A Genealogy). In their ‘Mending Wounds?: Healing, Working through, or Staying in Trauma: An Introduction’ (special issue of the Journal of Literary Studies, 2013), John Masterson, David Watson and Merle Williams asked whether cultural narratives of trauma can contradict to a certain extent trauma theory that does not discuss the efficacy of working through traumas. Trauma theory showed that victims find it difficult to relate their traumatic experiences and the listener has to respect their silence (see Laub). A way to break the victim’s literal silence and overcome the prevailing malaise in verbal representation is to attempt to bypass the literary and appeal to a non-literary way of representing trauma. Traumatic memory is not always verbal; it can also be re-experienced visually. Traumas can be healed not by eliminating traumatic memories, but by communicating them in any form, not only that of the narrative but also that of any other nonverbal, ‘iconic’ forms of communication like drawing and painting. Because art can help victims and witnesses of trauma make sense of its illogical experience and communicate it visually, creative art therapies have proven to be effective in trauma treatment.


The publication in 2007 of Catherine Malabou’s Les nouveaux blessés: De Freud à lq neurologie ; penser les traumatismes contemporaines has introduced a radically new framework within which to conceptualize the traumatic event and its impact on the cartography of an individual’s brain. Malabou argues that the frontier separating organic from sociopolitical traumatisms is becoming more and more fluid, given that all forms of trauma transform neuronal organization, especially those cerebral sites that Malabou calls ‘the affective brain.’ Malabou moves on to propose a general theory of trauma that seeks to understand the distinctness of ‘the new wounded,’ victims of accidental traumatisms, chronic degenerative maladies or different forms of extreme violence devoid of reason. As she insists, these new patients cannot be understood by traditional psychoanalysis because cerebral trauma destroys the core of psychical life, leaving behind it only the form of an absence. What is more, cerebral trauma breaks the hermeneutic thread that sustains the talking cure and arrests the transferential process that both psychoanalysis and classical trauma theory consider an inextricable part of the ‘art of healing.’ Malabou asks: Is it still possible to write the novel of a psychic economy deprived of infancy, cut off from all emotion, untranslatable into the language of dreams?


Taking into account the approaches described above, this conference focuses on the literary text but intends to extend the notion of cultural narratives to the other arts that can restore the impaired function of metaphor in language and heal.


We welcome individual paper presentations, panels and posters that explore topics in the following areas, but are not limited to:


Trauma: between remembering and forgetting

Witnessing and healing trauma in literature and the visual arts

The discourse of trauma, healing through language

Cultural narratives of healing after trauma

Creative art therapies, healing through the arts

The temporalities of trauma

The transmissibility/translatability of trauma

Neuropsychoanalytic approaches to trauma











  • Cultural and Critical Theory

  • Literary and Translation Studies

  • Linguistics Studies and Discourse Analysis

  • Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy

  • Visual Arts













  • Cultural and Critical Theory

  • Literary and Translation Studies

  • General Linguistics and Discourse Analysis

  • Cultural Anthropology and Philosophy

  • Visual Arts












Anca Dobrinescu

Arleen Ionescu

Irina Toma

Diana Costea

Mihaela Duma

Alina Rosca

Marius Nica

Ana Maria Tolomei

Lucia Ispas

Loredana Netedu

Maria Paraschiv

Organising commitee


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We look forward to hearing from you

Universitatea Petrol-Gaze din Ploieşti, 39 Bucureşti Blv., Ploiesti, PH


For any inquiries please send an email to:

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