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Traumatic Realism and the Poetics of Trauma in Elsa Morante's Works

Wehling-Giorgi, Katrin; de Rogatis, Tiziana

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Tiziana de Rogatis


Aim of this co-authored essay is to demonstrate that the literal reality construed by Morante in History and Aracoeli is an archetypical space of trauma able to connect different eras with one another. These chronological connections include our current time, affected by Covid-19 and by the severe economic and social impact engendered by it. In the first part of the essay – written by Tiziana de Rogatis (Traumatic Realism and the Poetics of Trauma: Narrative Structures in Elsa Morante’s History. A Novel) – the «traumatic realism» (Foster) expressed by History is defined as an important precursor and ancestor of the contemporary Global Novel and of its capacity to express – through different modes and techniques – a transnational and experimental form of realism as well as an extreme sense of emergency that can no longer be postponed. In order to highlight and effectively promote Morante’s connection with this important area of contemporary global writing, the essay is written in English. Drawing on Trauma Studies, this first part of the essay also identifies and articulates four techniques of traumatic realism within History: a) A twentieth-century poetics of pathos and a female counter-narrative of History; b) Compassion, abjection, and the dramaturgy of trauma; c) The «scandal», the narrative spirals, and the zones of trauma; d) The scars of trauma: silence, other languages, and animals. The second part of this essay – written by Katrin Wehling-Giorgi (Traumatic Realism and the Poetics of Trauma: Oneiric/ Photographic Images in Elsa Morante’s History. A Novel) – provides a close reading of the ekphrastic portrayal of dreams and photographic images through the lens of trauma theory and its applications in the visual sphere in Elsa Morante’s History. The analysis shows how the complex temporality and dialectic shifts between repetition and fixity that define the abundant oneiric and photographic imagery in the novel synechdochally reproduce the structural elements of trauma, constituting an act of witnessing that not only documents but also unsettles. The proposed reading provides new insights into the temporal, structural and narrative complexities of the novel whilst arguing that the Morante’s poetics of trauma powerfully engenders a female-authored, formerly untold tale.


Wehling-Giorgi, K., & de Rogatis, T. (2021). Traumatic Realism and the Poetics of Trauma in Elsa Morante's Works. Allegoria (Testo stampato), 83, 169-183

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 15, 2020
Publication Date 2021
Deposit Date Mar 1, 2021
Publicly Available Date Nov 11, 2021
Journal Allegoria
Print ISSN 1122-1887
Publisher G.B. Palumbo Editore & C. S.p.A
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 83
Pages 169-183
Publisher URL


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