The Trauma of Goodness in Patricia Grace’s Fiction

Date
2012
Authors
Visser, Irene
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University of Hawai‘i Press
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
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Abstract
Postcolonial literary critics today increasingly draw on cultural trauma theory to illuminate processes concerning the traumatic aftermath of colonization. There is also, however, a growing resistance to some of cultural trauma theory’s central concepts and its basic orientation, which are often deemed inadequate for the interpretation of postcolonial literatures. This article aims to contribute to this discussion as well as to contribute to a critical understanding of Patricia Grace’s fiction—or more precisely, of the aftermath of colonial repression that is represented in her novels of the 1980s and 1990s as an invidious and in fact traumatic “goodness.” The fictional dramatization of the trauma of “goodness” in the settings of school, orphanage, and hospital foregrounds a paradox that is central to Grace’s depiction of the lives of Māori children in the second half of the twentieth century, when the colonial contradictions between education and repression, care and wounding were still making themselves felt. Grace’s emphasis is on the long-lasting psychological imprint of colonial repression in primary schools, as institutes of care and instruction, where the concept of goodness is contaminated to the extent that it becomes indistinguishable from evil. In exploring this traumatic “goodness” as a colonizing concept in Grace’s fiction, this article reflects on the expository potential of trauma theory and on its limitations for postcolonial critical praxis.
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Aotearoa/New Zealand, Māori literature, Patricia Grace, goodness, cultural trauma theory, orality
Citation
Visser, I. 2012. The Trauma of Goodness in Patricia Grace’s Fiction. The Contemporary Pacific 24 (2): 297-321.
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25 pages
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