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Write of passage: Crime fiction as trauma literature

conference contribution
posted on 2017-12-19, 00:00 authored by Leanne DoddLeanne Dodd
The subject matter of crime fiction makes this form of creative writing an ideal vehicle for representing trauma as a subset of trauma literature, however, the ongoing debate about the definition of ‘literature’ has meant that crime fiction is positioned hierarchically lower in the cultural field than trauma literature. This paper will dispute a widely-held belief that crime fiction cannot be literary by presenting a framework of trauma theory and its relationship to literature, followed by an analysis of how narrative strategies used in trauma literature that mimic the symptoms of trauma, such as fragmentation and repetition, can be aligned with the fast-paced narrative and literary devices typical of crime fiction. Through a case study and critical reflection of how writers have engaged with trauma in contemporary crime fiction, this argument supports an emerging theory that crime fiction can be literary when it includes an authentic representation of trauma that serves similar purposes to that of trauma literature. The re-writing of the traumatic past in crime fiction offers an opportunity to empower large audiences with empathetic knowledge of trauma, which may transform perceptions, remove stigmas and thereby assist in combating the marginalisation that impedes recovery for trauma survivors. It also provides a safe narrative space for readers to confront their own fears, brought on by exposure to traumatic events in more graphic and perilous ways. This investigation will be informative for crime fiction writers, particularly those aiming to engage with literary institutions and attempting a more authentic representation of trauma in their work. It will also provide a foundation for writing strategies that transgress the boundaries between mass genre fiction and literary fiction and lead the way for further research into the power that narrative has to evoke psychological and emotional growth and benefits for a large genre fiction audience.



Howard L

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Budapest, Hungary



Place of Publication

Freeland, UK.

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

Era Eligible

  • No

Name of Conference

Trauma: Theory and Practice: Global Conference, 6th, 2016