Literature and Culture

Ferenc Marczali

Trauma in Marriage Stories

In my MA thesis I examined how Mór Jókai’s Az arany ember creates a monogamous female and a non-monogamous male subject, and justifies the difference between the two sexes’ degree of freedom. Using Hayden White’s idea that persons’ deeds and thoughts are informed with well-known narrative schemas (such as narratives of myths and tales), I examined how the stereotypical gender roles and the traditional scripts on which the novel relies can influence the reader’s concepts about the rights and duties of the two sexes.

In my research I intend to use the methods and approaches of trauma theory in order to analyze autobiographies, diaries and novels that relate events which are not considered tragic by common consent, but are everyday incidents of intimate relationships resulting in posttraumatic stress disorder. I plan to examine the works of Hungarian women writers of the turn of the century (Margit Kaffka, Renée Erdős, Lola Kosáryné Réz, and Emma Ritoók) and analyze how the subject positions offered for the reader create the  conditions for traumatizing women, and how the typically female poetic and narrative innovations of the period  (fragmentation, resistance against self-fulfilling narratives, blurring the boundaries between the inside and the outside, frequent use of omission) bring about a language that is able to express the fracture caused by the trauma.

Examining marriage stories of the turn of the century from the point of view of trauma theory and gender criticism would result in both literary and social benefits. As for the former, the research would help to describe the intra- and interpersonal relations that functioned as preconditions for the poetic innovations typical of the female literature of the period, so we would have a better understanding of the particular route that women fiction followed in the 20th century. On the other hand, since it is still patriarchal marriage that is the dominant form of intimate relationships, the analytical amplification of the hundred-year-old female experience can have a liberating effect on today’s women, too.

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