Mieke Bal

Amsterdam, Netherlands

INDECS 17(2-A), 242-258, 2019
DOI 10.7906/indecs.17.2.1
Full text available here.

Received: 19th March 2019.
Accepted: 11th June 2019.
Regular article


Resisting the current fashion of calling everything, and ourselves as scholars, "post-" something, as well as the unnoticed scholarly privileging of the present, or "presentism" that comes with it, I return in this article to an age-old novel, written by someone who was severely traumatized. Miguel de Cervantes Saveedra wrote his world-famous novel Don Quijote after having been held as a slave in Algiers. "Trauma" is a state of stagnation and the impossibility of subjective remembrance that result from traumatogenic events; not the events themselves; the distortion of time and its forms that result, rather than the violence that causes the trauma. This implies that the traumatic state challenges narratological concepts such as event, development, and other temporal categories. Therefore, I will concentrate my discussion on focalisation and temporality as both problematic as well as indispensable, and end up arguing that the traditional interpretation can also be reversed: the hero did not go mad because he read too much, but escaped in reading to evade the traumatizing reality.
In this article I revisit the concept of focalisation, in its tight connection, but not identity, to related concepts such as the gaze, looking, and imagining. The hypothesis that readers envision, that is, create, images from textual stimuli, cuts right through semantic theory, grammar, and rhetoric, to foreground the presence and crucial importance of images in reading; of imaging as part of that activity.

narrative, trauma, focalisation, imagination, envisioning

JEL:D83, D84

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