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Volume 38, Number 1 (2013)

"One thing can look like another": The Aesthetics and Performance of Trauma in Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees

February 28, 2014


Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees explores Canada’s gothic colonial past as it intersects with the postcolonial present, and it demonstrates that fiction can contribute to how trauma is theorized. Although the novel engages with gothic conventions and tropes, trauma finds its expression through magic realism. Through visual media, music, and performance, the novel offers a series of traumatic memories as always and only representations of the original encounter; as the experience of trauma confronts the limits of both representation and understanding, magic realist techniques represent the trauma as both real and imaginatively constituted. In line with Cathy Caruth’s view of the “bewildering encounter with trauma” as prompting recognition of “the possibility of a history that is no longer straightforwardly referential,” Fall on Your Knees suggests that the performative and aesthetic aspects of traumatic memory open up questions about the reliability of narrative representation.