The politics of parenting in Nancy Huston’s Fault Lines: Transgenerational trauma revisited

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Abstract / Description of output

The traumatic legacies of the Second World War continue to preoccupy authors of contemporary fiction, and to be of interest to readers and critics, as evidenced by the many literary prizes and high volume sales of such publications. Nancy Huston is no exception: writing in both her native English and adoptive French, she has drawn on her own experiences of displacement and loss to revisit the legacies of war and familial trauma in Fault Lines (shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction)/ Lignes de faille (winner of the Prix Femina). The novel portrays the lives of four generations of one family, via four first-person child narrators, in a story told backwards from present to past. My analysis explores depictions of transgenerational transmission of trauma in the light of Marianne Hirsch’s writings on trauma, and by examining portraits of parenting in the four parts of the text. I aim to consider the impact and meaning of various manifestations of trauma within the socially and historically specific landscapes in which they feature. My analysis examines how Huston’s text engages with the personal and political implications of ‘caring’, and, indeed, the consequences of ‘not caring’. The return of ‘uncared for’ aspects, the impact of legacies of ‘what is left over’, as articulated by Stephen Frosh in a recent psychoanalytical study on haunting, are shown to be at the heart of Huston’s transnational, relational project. I will consider the ways in which dreams, nightmares, transitional objects, bodily symbols, languages, and religions feature within the many and varied conscious and unconscious transmissions which affect the family dynamics, and which serve as an implicit warning, perhaps, of what the future might hold should we fail to take note of their significance. In addition to references to Hirsch and Frost’s theories on trauma and its spectres, my analysis is also informed by psychoanalytical theories on child development, identity formation, and object relations, as elaborated by the likes of Wilfrid Bion, André Green, Melanie Klein, and Donald Winnicott.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-48
JournalJournal of Literature and Trauma Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2020


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