Answering the Call of the Crying Wound: American Trauma Narratives of Victims of Femicide

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In Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History (1996), Cathy Caruth asks: ‘Is the trauma the encounter with death, or the ongoing experience of having survived it?’1 This chapter investigates a third trauma scenario: that of victims of femicide, whose stories are told from beyond the grave. The chapter examines Kate Millett’s The Basement: Meditations on a Human Sacrifice (1979), Susanna Moore’s In the Cut (1995) and Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (2002). These texts concern the stories of murder victims and thus provide counter-narratives to tales focused on the solving of the crime and/or the developing relationship between the (often male) investigators, in which the (often female) victim appears mainly in the guise of the corpse as prop – the object which, when discovered, propels the story. By telling the stories of the voiceless dead, Millett, Moore and Sebold endeavour to initiate the healing process, which has been hindered by death. The chapter details the different writing strategies employed when voicing these trauma narratives and uses texts by Margaret Atwood, Jacques Derrida, Alice Bennett and Ernest Becker to explore the act of writing from the viewpoint of the deceased. Through the use of Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection, as applied to Stephen King’s Carrie (1974), the chapter addresses the complications involved in the process of reliving the traumas of the dead victims through writing. Since death renders the victims abject, their language becomes meaningless; their voicelessness is reflected in the authors’ inability to express what happens when the living body transforms into a corpse.

Key Words: American literature, trauma narratives, murder victims, Kristeva, abjection, silenced voices, femicide, Becker, Derrida, (the moment of) death, Atwood, Caruth, Millett, Sylvia Likens, In the Cut, The Lovely Bones, Carrie.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRuptured Voices : Trauma and Recovery
EditorsKaren O'Donnell
Number of pages10
VolumeRuptured Voices: Trauma and Recovery
Place of PublicationOxford, United Kingdom
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Publication date2016
ChapterPart III
ISBN (Electronic)ISBN: 978-1-84888-372-7
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Trauma
  • American literature
  • Trauma theory
  • Trauma narratives
  • Femicide
  • Feminism
  • Murder victims
  • Julia Kristeva
  • Abjection
  • Silenced voices
  • Cathy Caruth
  • Ernest Becker
  • Derrida
  • (the moment of) death
  • Death
  • Death Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Kate Millett
  • Sylvia Likens
  • Sylvia Marie Likens
  • Susanna Moore
  • In the Cut
  • Alice Sebold
  • The Lovely Bones
  • Stephen King
  • Carrie
  • Horror
  • Horror fiction
  • Murder
  • Kvindemord


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