Witnessing the War through Conversational Testimonies: Representational Dilemmas and Discursive Survival in First World War Testimonial Literature

By Panagiota - Titika Karavia.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Encouraging a dialogue between Literary Theory, Discourse Analysis and Testimonial Studies, this paper discusses conversationally recollected experience in French and Greek novels of First World War testimonial literature. The present analysis gives special emphasis to the way in which combatants reconstitute their knowledge of the trenches and the battlefront in the course of their conversations with civilians. Instead of a scrupulous reminiscence, such conversationally formulated testimonies present a specific version of combatants’ reality, compatible with their recipients’ beliefs on the war. The whole recollection process appears then to be the result of an underlying tension between combatants' testimonial identity and their competence to defend it before those who are expected to be the recipients of their recollected experience. The analysis of the discursive practices they use proves sufficiently that such a testimony is in fact a meta-memory which appropriates combatants' experiences to their identity claims. Oscillating between the transmissibility of combatants' life and their need to be present in the testimonial field, such a testimony finally formulates an eccentric discourse on the war, indicative of the representational dilemmas which are inherent not only in the narrative it is part of but in almost any literary testimony.

Keywords: Literary Theory and Conversation Analysis, Discursive Strategies, Testimonial Discourse, War Literature, Documentary Fiction, Trauma Narrative, Memory, Identity

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 10, pp.21-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.861MB).

Dr Panagiota - Titika Karavia

Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle, France

Titika (Panagiota) KARAVIA studied linguistics at the University of Athens (B.A.) as well as literary theory, film analysis and cultural theory at Paris III (D.E.A. – DOCTORATE). She has published a monograph entitled "Le Dialogue dans le récit de témoignage de la Première Guerre mondiale" (Presses de l’A.N.R.T., 2006) and some articles on literary theory. Since November 2005, she is the database consultant of the research program GREEK BIBLIOGRAPHY OF LITERARY THEORY AND CULTURAL CRITICISM (1957-2006) which is administrated by the University of Athens. Her translation of the book "Understanding Children’s Literature" (ed. Peter Hunt) will be published in autumn by Metaixmio in Athens.

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