Narratives of Trauma

Chair: Michael Rose-Steel

“The End(s) of Time in Asia Minor: Competing Views of History in the Roman Imperial Cults and 1 Peter.” by Wei-Hsien Wan

Beginning with the reign of Augustus (31 BCE), cults devoted to the emperor and the imperial family spread rapidly to the Hellenistic communities of Roman Asia Minor. These cults were already firmly established throughout the region by the middle of the first century CE, and exercised pervasive influence over everyday life in Roman Anatolia. The present study examines the view of history resident in the ideology of the imperial cults, and compares it to that which is offered in The First Epistle of Peter (1 Peter), a contemporaneous circular letter addressed to fledgling Christian communities in northern Asia Minor. Whereas practitioners of the imperial cult framed history in terms of the accomplishments of Augustus and his successors, 1 Peter proposed an alternative paradigm, drawn from the traditions of Israel, which reconfigured time around the revelation of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This paper will also consider the social impact of these divergent ways of looking at history, including its possible role in instigating some of the earliest forms of persecution faced by Christians within the Roman Empire.

“Traumatic histories: an exploration of Francophone literary representations of the Central European (post-)communist era.” by Clare Horáčková

My research explores memories of traumatic histories, specifically those of the (post-) communist era in Czechoslovakia, as they are represented in literature that is written in, or translated into, French. This paper introduces the traumatic nature of this era of history and shows how, by bringing this as yet under-examined body of literature into wider view in the context of French Studies, my research contributes to current discussion of the contemporary issues of trauma, alienation, identity and memory. A brief overview is given of three literary case studies which form the focus of my research and have been selected to represent a variety of perspectives relating to this era of history. The paper then discusses in more detail the transgenerational legacy of traumatic memories that appears in the work of the young French-Czech author Jean-Gaspard Páleníček, who writes from a position of alienation from his childhood homeland. I argue that this alienation is in part the result of the silencing of both personal and national memories of a traumatic history, and discuss whether (and how) Páleníček’s writing succeeds in breaking such silences, thus renegotiating identity and reclaiming the lost homeland.