The Ebbinghaus Illusion, the creative work of this dissertation, is a collection of linked prose poems that make use of a variety of narrative strategies, both traditional and unusual. The linked prose poems present creative reactions (and rejections of) notions of typical trauma narratives as articulated by scholars such as Anne Whitehead, Cathy Caruth, Michelle Balev, and Laurie Vickroy. In addition, the work is also inspired by the work of space and place theorists, including the ideas of Edward Soja and Michael Foucault, who put forward pluralistic models of time and space, applicable to how a trauma narrative is read and processed by a reading audience.
Thematically, the prose poems examine both the trauma and disorientation of Alzheimer’s disease, and the trauma of suicide. The prose poems are a collection of isolated memories that form a disjointed story about death and the processing of traumatic experience. Although these prose poems are presented in order, they can also be read arbitrarily, in order to produce an entirely different narrative experience. The text blurs notions of time and space to disorient the reader, and emphasizes the disorienting nature of traumatic experience.
The critical afterword, “Monstrous Space: Trauma Narratives and Hybrid Poetics,” presents a discussion of trauma theory and space and place theory as it relates to the writing and reading of The Ebbinghaus Illusion. The afterword summarizes the major tenets of trauma theory, and relates the theory to a discussion of hybrid poetic formats, concentrating on the prose poem as a vehicle for traumatic narratives. The afterword also introduces the pluralistic models of time-space suggested by Foucault and Soja, and argues that the pluralistic models of “Thirdspace” and “Heterotopia” are integral to how a reader
participates in the mental and physical clash of time and space found in trauma narratives. Unnatural narratology, focusing on the “test” format of the memoir, and the use of second person narration are addressed. Discussion of unnatural narrative strategies suggests the importance of non-mimetic narration in producing the disorientation of time and space that results from reading a trauma narrative.