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Call for Papers:

 Please send abstract by 20 August 2016 to:

English Seminar

2 and 3 September 2016

Literature of War, Conflict and Trauma: Post-Colonial Perspectives and Approaches


There is something counter intuitive about “the literature of war.” How can war, a phenomenon of destruction, give rise to literature, an act of creation? What sort of fiction, poetry, or drama might thrive on mass death, injury, and loss, other than the voyeuristic, the exploitative, or the simply sadistic? Might war writing even perpetuate war, glorify violence, and obscure suffering? War literature does all of these things. It also warns against pursuing armed conflict, exposes its atrocities, and argues for peace. It records the acts of war with as much accuracy as is possible, and it memorializes the dead. It is voyeuristic, exploitative, and sadistic; it is also tender, selfless,  and comforting. It is gleeful and angry; inflammatory and cathartic; propagandist, passionate, and clinical. It is funny and sad. The literature of war is a literature of paradoxes, the greatest of which is the fact that it comments continuously on its own failure. War writers often lament their incapacity to describe the realities of armed combat, the inexpressible nature of the subject matter, the inadequacy of language, and the inability of their audiences to understand.

The traumas of conflict and war in the postcolonial world  have been widely documented, but less well known are their literary and artistic representations. A number of recent films, novels and other art forms have sought to engage with and overcome postcolonial atrocities and to explore the attempts of reconciliation commissions towards peace, justice and forgiveness. This creativity reflects the memories and social identities of the writers and artists, whilst offering a mirror to the world wide audiences coming to terms with a collective memory that is often traumatic in itself.

The seeming paradox between creative representation and the reality of horrific events such as genocide presents challenges for the relationship between ethics, poetics and politics.  Literature and art bring together multiple ways of analyzing such controversial and painful subjects. Also, to study trauma, conflict and reconciliation through literature offers new perspectives on conflict ridden areas and regions that are often misrepresented by the global  media.

The conflict and trauma literature demonstrates how a traumatic event disrupts attachments between self and others by challenging fundamental assumptions about moral laws and social relationships that are themselves connected to specific environments. Literature  represent this disruption between the self and others by carefully describing the place of trauma because the physical environment offers the opportunity to examine both the personal and cultural histories imbedded in landscapes that define the character’s identity and the meaning of the traumatic experience. The primacy of place in the representations of trauma anchors the individual experience within a larger cultural context, and, in fact, organizes the memory and meaning of trauma.

The evolution of trauma theory in literary criticism might best be understood in terms of the changing psychological definitions of trauma as well as the semiotic, rhetorical, and social concerns that are part of the study of trauma in literature and society. The field of trauma studies in literary criticism gained significant attention in 1996 with the publication of Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History.

Major Themes for the seminar:

  1. World War I and II
  2. Vietnam war
  3. Narratives Middle east and Gulf war
  4. Soviet- Afghan war
  5. Terrorism
  6. India –Pakistan- Bangladesh
  7. Sino- India war
  8. Israel – Palestine conflict
  9. Kashmir conflict