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The ethics of aesthetics in trauma fiction: memory, guilt and responsibility in Louise L. Lambrichs’s 'Journal d’Hannah'

Citation: Rye, Gill (2009) The ethics of aesthetics in trauma fiction: memory, guilt and responsibility in Louise L. Lambrichs’s 'Journal d’Hannah'. Journal of Romance Studies, 9 (3). pp. 48-59. ISSN 1473-3536

This article engages with two themes which are key to the special issue, 'The Witness and the Text': (i) the relations between the individual and history, between the private and the public in relation to traumatic events; and (ii) the ethics and aesthetics of testimony and bearing witness, and the role of fiction in this respect. These themes are addressed through analysis of Louise L. Lambrichs's 'Journal d'Hannah' (1993), a fascinating novel, in diary format, about the psychological effects of an abortion, set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. The Jewish woman who reluctantly aborts her second child is in her own mind at once victim, perpetrator and survivor, and consumed by guilt. First, the article considers the mirroring structure of the novel, which arguably invites a comparison between the trauma of the abortion and the trauma of the Holocaust. It then examines the historical context of the setting and the writing of the novel. Finally, it identifies the ethical impetus of the text in its treatment of guilt and responsibility, with particular regard to contemporary France's troubled relationship with its wartime past.

Additional Information: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedited version of an article published in the Journal of Romance Studies. The definitive publisher-authenticated version, ‘The Ethics of Aesthetics in Trauma Fiction: Memory, Guilt and Responsibility in Louise L. Lambrichs’s Journal d’Hannah’, in The Witness and the Text, ed. Debra Kelly and Gill Rye, special issue of Journal of Romance Studies 9.3 (Winter 2009), pp.48-59, is available online at
Creators: Rye, Gill ( and
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Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Keywords: Louise L. Lambrichs, trauma fiction, abortion, holocaust, mirror-images, French collaboration, guilt, responsibility, memory
Divisions: Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women's Writing
  • December 2009 (published)


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