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ENG353 - Fugitive Pieces - February 11.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Vikki Visvis

February 11, 2014 Fugitive Pieces • Trauma as a catastrophe o Not just a single event o Layered o One layer is often (not always) historical; in this case the historical layer is the holocaust • With commentary of holocaust, Michaels comments on images of escape instead of focusing on it, with the exception of the scene where Jakob imagines his sister in a gas chamber; aside from that we rarely see it at the forefront • In that scene, graphic details were used, so we can’t distant ourselves from history • p. 168: “When they opened the doors…” o Can’t distance ourselves from history • We never forget that the holocaust frames the novel, even though we don’t dwell on it • Distress, famine, poverty in Greece at the end of the World War also explored • Doesn’t take same stand, but trauma of immigration also explored • Title: “Fugitive” – wondering from place to place Historical trauma • Michaels dives beneath the Canadian definition of multiculturalism • Novel questions concepts of Canadian identity and home • Michaels invests Toronto with meaning and home for Athos and Jakob • In holocaust literature, there are lots of empty spaces and absences. But here, place plays a role as well • Trauma of dislocation • Sense of alienation and terror • Part 2: when Ben’s father attempts to get pension and is confront by the ex-Nazi officer • Historical trauma often intersects with personal • Trauma can be defined as an event outside realm of usual human experience (eg. Events that don’t happen every day) • Depictions of trauma apparent in Jakob • P. 8: haunted – “I know why we bury our dead…the ground” • Michaels complicates notion of being haunted • Jakob traumatized by what he doesn’t see but what he hears • Jakob traumatized by slaughtered parents • P. 17: “I did not witness the most important…” • Jakob misses parents’ deaths and sister’s disappearance • Imaginative recreation Intergenerational trauma • Stories told and passed down • Similarities between Jakob and Ben • Detachment for both because they’re unable to view event • For Ben, detachment is more pronounced • Not an immediate event, but for Ben feels it • Trauma transcends moment in time to effect others • Scientific notion of transfer of memory • P.280: “my parents past is mine molecularly…from my mouth” o Experiencing what father experienced o Read it figuratively o Ben’s inheritance is family history; can’t be escaped o Not genetic, but oral/narrative • P. 217: “instead of hearing about…” o Reinforced when Athos tries to protect Jakob from stories: p. 42 “maybe Jakob shouldn’t hear anymore” • Idea that language can pass on trauma • Trauma narratives don’t just say something, but do something • Idea that trauma is contagious and can be passed through narrative o We become implicated in the event and change its history • Shosha Felman did a trauma experiment with her students; made them read trauma and write essays, which trauma signs (PTSD) Representing catastrophe • Importance of bearing witness • History demands we witness what happened • Prefatory note: Michaels draws on what’s hidden • Problem of reductive nature of Nazi regime • Drowned city of Biskupen is an example of violence of history o Biskupen was unearthed and destroyed by Nazis o 207,000 years ago • P. 50: “Biskupen had been a rich community…division” – beginning of urban planning • River rose until 1930 when it finally dropped • Athos believes he and Jakob are saving each other • Athos’s colleagues killed • Fate of Biskupen reveals problem with historiography (how history and nationalism intersect and exclude, often violently) • Canada’s multicultural mosaic excluded Natives, Japanese internment, no acceptance of Jewish people, CP rail incident • There historical events are ignored here; violence not something that just happened in Germany • Biskupen was destroyed by Nazis because it didn’t conform to Aerian superiority and was undermined • Marked skepticism towards history • Athos was obsessed with documentary • Attracted by Nazi history • P. 104: “Biskupen was proof of…” o Manipulation of space and time in history o Can eradicate place (Biskupen) and change time (history) • Athos feels need to challenge history • Sunken city of Toronto • Novel shows how imaginative reclamation can restore history • Athos and Jakob approach site in terms of geological time; more difficult to destroy geology than history • Simultaneity about time; you get to see everything at once • Rocks – we see time all at once and experience them at the same time • P. 98: “Athos and Jakob plunged years into the…” o Scale puts all human existence into perspective • Arch site was destroyed by urban construction • P. 105: “we stood on the sidewalk and imagined…like ash.” o Nice neighbourhood in geological time o Images at end of passage “burning flesh” and “ash” are images of the holocaust • Scene = revenge fantasy from Iroquois • Shows Toronto could’ve been very different area even a couple hundred years ago • Time as revolutionary sequence instead of progress • Time is changeable in novel • Disruption of linear time especially with progress Traumatic memory • Athos attempts to set history straight with fear • Memories are there to show official history • P. 138: “history is occurred, but memory…in synagogue” – need to remember trauma = ethical imperative • P. 137: “on the map of history, water stain = memory” • Public versus official versus real history • Personal imperative to tell history • Dori Laub insists trauma needs to be represented by victim being haunted • P. 8: “I knew suddenly my mom was…at night” – can feel her • Also haunted by sounds that surround disappearance • P. 10: “I couldn’t keep out the sound…” – Jakob assumes he has a bond with dead family • P. 25: “When I woke, my
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