Inaugural LITRA Lecture: Anne Whitehead

Inaugural LITRA Lecture: Anne Whitehead

Event date: Thursday 17 January 2008, 5.30 p.m. – 6.30 p.m.
Location: Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Blandijnberg 2, Faculty Room 

“Good Grief? A Rough Guide to (Post)Colonial Melancholia” given by Dr. Anne Whitehead (University of Newcastle upon Tyne)

“This paper takes as its starting point Mieke Bal’s notion of travelling concepts. While acknowledging the importance of tracing how concepts travel over time and space, and across disciplines, I also register the importance of defining the limits of concepts; the points at which they travel beyond themselves and their own capacity to cohere and make sense. With this in mind I turn to psychoanalysis to consider how Freud’s ideas have travelled forward in time and across space. In particular, I question whether some psychoanalytic concepts travel further and more effectively than others. I argue that trauma seems to have become particularly burdened with conceptual and ideological baggage, and suggest that melancholia may perhaps travel a little lighter and therefore a little further, particularly in conceptualising or theorising non-Western subjectivities. My analysis of trauma and melancholia also structures a debate around the value of letting the past go (‘working through’) and a more melancholic mode of preservation. I question whether traumatic concepts of working through are necessarily or inherently positive or whether there is some value, particularly at the level of collective memory, in continuing to hold onto or retain the past.”

Dr. Anne Whitehead is a senior lecturer in the School of English Literature, Language, and Linguistics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. She is the author of numerous publications on trauma and memory studies, including a book entitled Trauma Fiction (Edinburgh UP, 2004) and the forthcoming volume on memory in Routledge’s prestigious New Critical Idiom series. She has also co-edited collections of essays on the writing of W. G. Sebald (Edinburgh UP, 2004) and on the role of history in literature and theory (Ashgate, 2000), as well as a reader on theories of memory (Edinburgh UP, 2007). Her articles have appeared in such journals as Textual PracticeEuropean Journal of English StudiesModern Fiction Studies, and Critique.

This lecture is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of Dr. Whitehead’s Research Leave Award (award no. AH/E004458/1). It forms part of a larger project writing a Routledge Critical Idiom volume on memory, which has sought to define how Western concepts of memory travel across time, and how they are changed or transformed in so doing.

View photos here.