Call for Papers

Special Issue on Trauma and Multilingualism in Literature

Deadline for abstract submissions: October, 15th 2022

Starting with two pioneering studies in the 1990s – Cathy Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History and Kali Tal’s Worlds of Hurt: Reading the Literatures of Trauma – Trauma Studies have demonstrated that language lies at the core of the experience of trauma, although in an unusual way. Indeed, it is nowadays widely recognised that trauma corresponds to an extreme event which challenges the limits of language. This is due to the fact that trauma is a particular form of memory that struggles to be fully processed. However, despite being an unutterable event (and, therefore, an event beyond language), trauma needs to be transformed into a narrative in order to be located and put in the past (Bessel van der Kolk and Onno van der Hart 1995).

In this Special Issue of an international peer-reviewed journal, the aim is to explore the interface between trauma and multilingualism in literary texts. Multilingual writing offers a possible vehicle to narrate trauma; furthermore, it can be used to process traumata inscribed in language such as the Shoah, wartime atrocities, slavery, colonialism, genocide, exile and migration. Through particular multilingual poetics, multilingual texts offer an alternative perspective of these events, often that of underprivileged subjects such as immigrants, guest workers and former colonial subjects. Thus, officially accepted versions of traumata may be challenged and retold in a new way, or individual trauma narrated for the first time.

The special issue welcome articles that focus on theoretical approaches to the interface of trauma and literary multilingualism, as well as analyses of specific case studies, both with a historical perspective and of contemporary literature. They invite submissions on texts by authors who chose different languages than their first one to write about traumatic events such as Jorge Semprún, Ágota Kristóf, Katja Petrowskaja or Giorgio Pressburger; analyses of works written by borderland writers, writers belonging to minorities and politically controversial areas such as Boris Pahor, Fulvio Tomizza, or Juan Marsé, who employ multiple languages (usually code-switching among them) to deal with traumatic events. Furthermore, they are interested in studies of literary texts that apply multilingual aesthetics/poetics to narrate traumata.

Topics may include but are not limited to the following aspects:

  •  How can the relationship between trauma and language/multilingualism in literature be described, and which theories can be applied to analyse it?
  • How and why do authors choose their literary languages to narrate trauma?
  • Which particular multilingual poetics do authors apply to narrate traumata? Which specific literary strategies do they apply?
  • What is the innovative aspect of a multilingual poetical approach to trauma?
  • How can trauma be (re)conceived through the multilingual lens?
  • What effect does the interface of trauma and literary multilingualism have on readers?

Timeline and Procedure

300-word abstract and a brief bio should be sent to and by October, 15th 2022.

Decisions will be communicated to the authors by the end of October 2022 and the submission of completed articles is planned for the end of January 2023.

Futher information and references are available in the button below: