Herstories of war: representations of silence in women's Vietnam/American war narratives

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Alison M. Johnson (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Noelle Morrissette

Abstract: Much of Vietnam War literary scholarship focuses on white male narratives of the conflict. By alternatively drawing on feminist rhetorical theories of silence, listening, and praxis, my dissertation interrogates traditional psychoanalytic thought by investigating how American, Vietnamese, and Vietnamese-American women who experienced the war provide a different model for narrating the war and coping with trauma. These women must contend with misogynist and, for some, racist practices embedded within patriarchal regimes of power in media, education, psychoanalytic frameworks, government, the academy, and the family, in addition to their experiences of the war. These constraints create conditions that mandate working outside of these patriarchal institutions so that these women can cope with their trauma on their own terms. To do so, women protagonists resort to using silence to allow themselves time and space away from the dominant psychoanalytic framework that emphasizes rendering one’s experiences into words as a necessary coping practice. Through the use of silence and selective telling, these women develop their own mode for coping with trauma to imbue themselves with their own sense of agency and self-empowerment.My project relies on a wide variety of texts that range from popular accounts like Lynda Van Devanter’s Home Before Morning and Frances Fitzgerald’s Fire in the Lake to lesser-known works such as lê thi diem thúy’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For and Nhã Ca’s Mourning Headband for Hue. By inviting Vietnamese-American and Vietnamese women’s narratives into the conversation about the Vietnam War with white American women’s texts, I underscore the importance of listening to these works as women’s texts, rather than those that are categorized as racially separate and different from white American discourse. Bringing these voices in connection with each other demonstrates how sexist regimes of power exert debilitating influence upon these people as women, conditions that also can be exacerbated by racially-infused logics of oppression. Placed into disenfranchised positions, these women call attention to the failures of current psychoanalytic diagnostic practices, and they expose how patriarchal institutions have created these constraining conditions for women in the first place.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Rhetorical listening, Silence, Trauma, Vietnamese literature, Vietnam War, Women and gender studies
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 $x Literature and the war
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 $v Personal narratives
Vietnam War, 1961-1975 $x Women
Women and literature
Feminism and literature
Silence in literature

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